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Booze to biofuels - fuel for the future?

23.08.2007
Cars in the future could be running on fuel made from the by-products of brewing and distilling thanks to a new research project at the University of Abertay Dundee.

Researchers in Abertay’s School of Contemporary Sciences have been awarded a prestigious Carnegie Trust Research Grant to investigate turning residues from beer and whisky processes into biofuel.

The year long project will look at new methods of turning spent grain into bioethanol, a more environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels.

The main advantages of bioethanol over traditional fuels are that it is CO2 neutral, it produces 65% less greenhouse gas emissions and because it burns at a higher temperature it is better for fire safety.

Professor Graeme Walker is heading up the project. He said: “Scientists all over the world are trying to find a simple and cost effective way to produce more biofuels from waste or low value products.

“The supply of fossil fuels is finite – some estimates suggest that around half of the world’s oil reserves have been used up in the last 200 years - and the race is on to find more environmentally friendly alternatives.

“Brazil and the USA have both been very successful in creating bioethanol from sugarcane and maize starch respectively. Between them these countries produce over 70% of global supplies.

“The US has overtaken Brazil in production but Brazil remains the largest exporter, sending around 3.2 billion litres abroad last year alone.

“However the methods used in these countries are open to criticism since they create an increased demand for land for growing energy crops.

“In countries like Brazil this may also threaten tropical forests and perhaps cancel out any benefits from using biofuels.

“Our research will be looking at the far more complicated process of turning waste products from industry into bioethanol as an example of a second-generation biofuel.

“These products are currently disposed of or processed for animal feed and turning them into fuel would be an attractive use of the resource.

“At the moment many technical challenges remain to converting waste biomass into fuel. We will focus on finding more efficient and cost effective processes.”

Tracey McNeish | alfa
Further information:
http://www.abertay.ac.uk

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