Mar 7, 2008

Uisge Beatha: It's Good For the Health of the Earth, too

Thank you University of Aberdeen scientists and Glenfiddich Distillery!!

We know that Uisge Beatha truly is the water of life. Those of us of Scottish descent understand that a dram of whisky is an almost magical elixir, capable of curing illnesses, stopping coughs, healing wounds, and soothing hearts.

And now it appears that some of the fine scientists at Aberdeen have discovered that one of the by-products of whisky making can actually clean up contaminated ground and water. What good news! I shall hope to speak with some of the scientists at the next meeting of the Royal Society (well, I shall have to borrow Oolon's tardis so I might travel forward in time about 120 years, but that is easily enough done. :-)

Please enjoy this article taken from the Telegraph.

The fabled medicinal properties of a wee dram - a glass of scotch whisky - may be more than an old wive's tale.

Glenfiddich donated the by-product from their distilling process for the new technology
Glenfiddich donated the by-product from their distilling process for the new technology

Instead of putting water into the whisky scientists have put a whisky by-product into the water and found it had magical properties.

Residue from Scotland's distilleries is being used in a pioneering method to clean up contaminated ground and polluted water.

Scientists at Aberdeen University have created DRAM - Device for the Remediation and Attenuation of Multiple pollutants - which they claim could revolutionise the cleaning up of old and contaminated industrial sites.

They claim the secret process can remove different types of pollutants including chlorines, heavy metals and pesticides at the same time and is far quicker and more cost effective than current clean up techniques.

Aberdeen University said it was not prepared to specify what the by-product was - other than that it is made from completely natural products - for "commercial reasons".

So far the new technology has been used only in the whisky industry but it could also use other by-products from food and drink production.

Trials have been so successful that the university research team is considering setting up a company to exploit its commercial potential.

Dr Graeme Paton, Professor Ken Killham and Dr Leigh Cassidy believe the process they have developed - where by-products are enhanced and incorporated into a unique patented device - could be licensed to land consultants and other companies involved in the clean up of toxic sites.

Scottish Enterprise provided almost £300,000 of funding into the research and the world famous Glenfiddich distillery on Speyside donated the by-product for use in the novel technology.

Dr Paton, a leading soil toxicologist, said: "DRAM is a groundbreaking technology created and progressed at the University of Aberdeen.

"Currently we are using the by-product of Scotland's most famous export but our technology can utilise other by-products from the food and beverage industry.

"The clean up of contaminated groundwater is an absolutely massive global market. The technology that we have developed is environmentally friendly, sustainable and has the potential to put Scotland at the forefront for remediation technologies. It is not just the deployment that is novel but also the underpinning technology to predict the success.

There are an estimated 330,000 contaminated sites in the UK mainly former industrial land blighted by pollutants that have seeped into the land and about £1.2bn is spent every year cleaning them up.

But the team believe their clean-up discovery could also find big markets in India and Asia.

Professor Ken Killham, Professor of Soil Science at the University and a leading authority on the assessment and remediation of contaminated land, said: "There is an urgent need to develop and apply sustainable technologies and to couple these to proven approaches.

"We should not just think about the remediation of high value land in expanding residential areas but also those forgotten sites that constitute most of the UK contaminated land bank."

Dr Leigh Cassidy, Research Fellow, said: "The University of Aberdeen has enabled a unique environment to apply and develop proven scientific techniques with a commercial end-user demand. Close cooperation with institutions and regulators throughout the UK is allowing the genuine application of this technology."