Over 500 million liters of whisky are produced in the UK each year. But for every liter of whisky produced, up to 15 liters of potentially harmful waste can be generated.
Chemical engineers from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland are looking to solve this problem by converting some of the waste into protein-rich feed, which could have the added benefit of providing a sustainable and economic supply of feedstock for the growing Scottish fish farming industry.
A pilot plant trial of the Horizons Proteins project is scheduled for August 2014 in a whisky distillery to assess the economic, nutritional, environmental and chemical engineering processes involved in large scale production of the proteins.
David Brown, chief executive of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), said: "Distillery effluent can be damaging, but also contains potentially valuable nutrients and micronutrients. The waste can also be used to produce a microbial biomass which has the potential to be a cheap and sustainable source of protein-rich feed.
"The academic team at Heriot-Watt University have already been recognized for their excellent work by IChemE's Food and Drink Special Interest Group. Their work and others looking at the microbial treatment of waste is very exciting and has many potential applications including crude oil recovery, healthcare and in environmental protection like bioremediation of sites affected by heavy metals and other contaminants."
The role of chemical engineers in the food and drink sector is explored in IChemE's latest technical strategy, Chemical Engineering Matters. The strategy also includes actions chemical engineers are taking on other global challenges including water, energy and health.