Nobody would have ever thought that scientists would actually recommend mixing driving and alcohol, but with new biofuel research coming out of the Edinburgh Napier University’s Biofuel Research Center in Scotland, whiskey may be part of the future of alternative energy.
The chemistry behind the science is only slightly complicated, which involves malting, mashing, fermenting, distilling, and aging. During the whiskey curing process, there is a significant amount of waste created – especially during the mashing and distillation steps. Usually the waste from these steps, otherwise known as ‘draff’ and ‘pot ale’, is used to make feed for farm animals.
However, the draff and the pot ale can actually be used to make butanol, which used to be a popular type of fuel — though at the time, it was more expensive than fossil fuels to produce.
Compared to ethanol, another alternative biofuel, butanol is 25%-30% more energy efficient per unit volume, and can be used in unmodified engines if blended with a petrol-based fuel. Ethanol, on the other hand, needs an engine suited to its use, and is much more corrosive than butanol. And with 1,600 million liters of pot ale and 187,000 tons of draff produced every year by the whiskey industry, the waste represents a significant amount of fueling potential for a yet-untapped source.
The biofuel technology was developed by Professor Martin Tangney (you can read a highly informative interview with him here). As the butanol technology continues to develop and pending release onto the market, Tangney says, “In these challenging economic times we need to play to our strengths and take advantage of the low carbon opportunities of the future. It’s exactly this type of innovation that will help sustain economic recovery and deliver future sustainable economic growth.”
The future presents a lot of different alternative energy and fueling options, and whiskey may no longer be such a bad thing to have on the road.