Martin Tangney, who is originally from Cork, held the successful test in Scotland this week using a standard Ford Focus fuelled by his whiskey residue biofuel, biobutanol.
No engine modification is required which means the new fuel could become a direct replacement for petrol, diesel, and even jet fuel.
His innovation has set the wheels in motion for a revolution in sustainable transport, with plans to produce millions of litres of the new fuel from the by-products of the multi-billion whiskey industry.
“This is the first time in history that a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whiskey production residues,” Prof Tangney said.
“It is fitting to do this historic drive in a Ford, as the original Model T cars developed by Henry Ford ran on biofuel.
“This drive demonstrates that we can make truly sustainable biofuel through what we believe can become a multi-billion pound global business with the opportunity to turn transport green.”
Prof Tangney, from Macroom in Co Cork, is president of Edinburgh Napier University’s Biofuel Research Centre and founded Edinburgh-based Celtic Renewables, a campus start-up, in 2012.
Working with Tullibardine Distillery, near Gleneagles golf course, his company adapted a 100-year-old process to produce the new biofuel from draff, the sugar-rich kernels of barley which are soaked in water to facilitate the fermentation process in whiskey production, and pot ale, the copper-containing yeasty liquid left over following distillation.
The process was devised in the UK at the start of the last century to produce acetone for explosives used in World War 1 but was phased-out in the 1960s due to competition from the petrochemical industry.
Prof Tangney’s breakthrough was to adapt the process to work with these residues. Each year in Scotland alone, the country’s £5bn malt whiskey industry produces almost 750,000 tonnes of draff and two billion litres of pot ale.
The company recently received £9m in funding from the Scottish government to build a commercial demonstrator plant.
Prof Tangney, who studied microbiology at University College Cork and graduated with first class honours in 1986, said his focus now is on securing matching private equity.