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by Brett Davis

Scientists in Scotland have discovered a way of using whisky off-cuts as a biofuel which could power cars. The main ingredient, butanol – a waste or by-product automatically developed in the process of making whisky – has been used as an ingredient for explosives during the war. Now it seems the liquid has other purposes too.

Ethanol, the current national standard biofuel, can only be used at a maximum ratio of 85 percent with normal petrol. Even when it is blended at that strength, the engine has to be especially modified to suit. The more common ratio is 10 percent; so just 10 percent of the fuel the car is using is more bio-friendly than ordinary petrol. Scientists say the butanol by-product could be added to a car’s fuel mix in almost any ratio without the need to modify the car, offering substantial environmental benefits. Butanol is also said to offer 30 percent more energy than ethanol.

Scientists at the Edinburgh Napier University have received a $450,000 grant from the British government to help push the technology, or brewery (depending on how you look at it) along and into mainstream markets.

Director of the Biofuel Research Centre at the Edinburgh Napier University, Professor Martin Tangney, said in a recent report,

“While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them. This is a more environmentally sustainable option and potentially offers new revenue on the back of one Scotland’s biggest industries. We’ve worked with some of the country’s leading whisky producers to develop the process.”