Distilling Wastewater: Heriot-Watt's Green Hydrogen Breakthrough

Heriot-WattImage Source: Heriot-Watt


Heriot-Watt researchers discover a way to utilize distilling industry wastewater for green hydrogen production, potentially revolutionizing sustainable fuel creation. This innovation, employing nanoscale materials, could alleviate freshwater usage and offers promise for eco-friendly energy generation, as outlined in a recent study published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal.



Heriot-Watt University's scientists have unveiled a groundbreaking breakthrough in the quest for sustainable energy solutions. Dr Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu and his team have devised a revolutionary method harnessing distilling industry wastewater to create green hydrogen, a monumental stride towards environmentally friendly fuel production.

Across Scotland, distilleries collectively produce approximately 1 million metric tons of wastewater annually from the whisky distillation process. Globally, this figure escalates to an estimated 1 billion metric tons yearly. However, this seemingly cumbersome byproduct could hold the key to a sustainable future.

Dr Pitchaimuthu, a materials scientist at Heriot-Watt, highlighted the substantial water consumption in current green hydrogen production, emphasizing the pressing need for resource conservation. The team's innovative approach involves leveraging nanoparticles, specifically nickel selenide, to treat distillery wastewater, enabling its substitution for freshwater in the green hydrogen creation process.

Their research, showcased in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Sustainable Energy & Fuels, heralds a significant breakthrough. It demonstrates the potential of distillery wastewater, when treated with nickel selenide nanoparticles, to yield equivalent or even slightly higher quantities of green hydrogen compared to using freshwater.

The implications of this discovery are colossal. By utilizing industry wastewater, freshwater usage in green hydrogen production can be significantly reduced, enhancing sustainability in clean energy production. Moreover, this pioneering initiative aligns with the global push for resource-conscious practices in energy generation.

The immediate future for the research team involves scaling up production of the nickel selenide nanoparticles and constructing an electrolyser prototype. Additionally, they aim to explore further salvaging opportunities from distillery wastewater, probing for other valuable materials alongside hydrogen and oxygen.

Funded by Heriot-Watt's School of Engineering and Physical Sciences and conducted in collaboration with the University of Bath and The Scotch Whisky Research Institute, this research represents a transformative leap towards sustainable energy solutions.

Dr Pitchaimuthu, an Associate Professor at Heriot-Watt's Institute of Mechanical, Process & Energy Engineering, spearheads this groundbreaking initiative. His research is pivotal in advancing photoelectrochemistry, nanomaterials, and solar energy applications, aligning with the university's focus on low-carbon solutions.


Heriot-Watt's pioneering breakthrough in utilizing distillery wastewater for green hydrogen production signifies a paradigm shift in sustainable energy creation. Led by Dr Pitchaimuthu and his team, this innovative approach holds promise for reducing freshwater consumption in clean energy generation, aligning seamlessly with global sustainability goals. The research marks a significant leap towards resource-conscious practices in clean energy production, paving the way for a more eco-friendly future.

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