From Bourbon to Batteries

There is no short supply of bourbon in Kentucky. But like many products, the distillation of the state’s unofficial beverage produces a sludgy waste known as bourbon stillage. The question for one researcher from the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research was how to repurpose that waste into something with tremendous potential.

To answer that question, ECS member Stephen Lipka and his Electrochemical Power Sources group set out to transform the bourbon stillage through a process called hydrothermal carbonization, where the liquid waste gets a dose of water and heat to produce green materials.

(MORE: See more of Lipka’s work in the ECS Digital Library.)

“In Kentucky, we have this stillage that contains a lot of sugars and carbohydrates so we tried it and it works beautifully,” says Lipka. “We take these [green materials] and we then do additional post-processing to convert it into useful materials that can be used for batteries.”