Sugar is produced from two main sources; sugar cane and sugar beet. Sugar cane is grown in warm tropical or sub-tropical regions, whereas sugar beets thrive in more temperate climates.
While the choice of processing equipment may vary, the production process is fundamentally the same for both raw materials. It includes the following steps:
- Cleaning – The sugar cane or beet is washed and then shredded to aid the extraction process.
- Juice extraction – The shredded sugar cane passes through a series of heavy-duty rollers to extract the juice. Hot water is sprayed onto the pulp to remove any remaining sugar. Beet sugar is extracted with hot water in a diffuser tank.
- Purification – The raw juice is purified by introducing calcium hydroxide and carbon dioxide to the process. This forms calcium carbonate, which attracts colloidal impurities in the sugar solution and these are removed in filters.
- Evaporation – Vacuum evaporators are used to concentrate the solution to approximately 70% sugar. Evaporation is conducted in controlled stages under vacuum to prevent caramelization of the sugar.
- Crystallization – The concentrated juice is seeded with tiny sugar crystals, which form the nucleus for further crystal growth. The process is stopped once the desired crystal size is reached.
- Centrifugation – Centrifuges are used to separate the sugar crystals from the syrup, a byproduct known as molasses. At this stage, sugar produced from beet is pure and white and can be stored and packaged. The sugar crystals from sugar cane still require further refining.
- Sugar refining –The raw sugar is mixed with a sugar solution to loosen molasses adhering to the sugar crystals. Centrifuges are used to separate the molasses from the sugar. The crystals are washed and filtered to produce a golden syrup. The syrup is then evaporated and dried to produce white, refined sugar.
Honiron is an industry-leading designer and manufacturer of processing equipment, including heat exchangers, condensers, strippers, evaporators, and extractors. For more information or to speak with one of our qualified experts, contact us today.