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Cairo University

Faculty of Engineering
Chemical Eng Department

introduction to chemical engineering

Sugar Industry
November 2008

1. Introduction
2. Photosynthesis
3. Sugar chemistry
4. The sugar industry, basis of
5. Raw material preparation
6. Sugar cane processing
7. Sugar Beet Processing


Introduction. 1
Most sugars occur naturally in fruits and
Sugar is produced in 121 Countries and global
production now exceeds 120 Million tons a year.
Approximately 70% is produced from sugar cane
, a very tall grass with big stems which is largely
grown in the tropical countries. The remaining
30% is produced from sugar beet, a root crop
resembling a large parsnip grown mostly in the
temperate zones of the north.

Photosynthesis. 2

The process whereby plants make sugars is photosynthesis.

The plant takes in carbon dioxide from the air through pores in
its leaves and absorbs water through its roots. These are
combined to make sugar using energy from the sun and with
the help of a substance called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is green
which allows it to absorb the sun's energy more readily and
which, of course, gives the plants' leaves their green colour.
The reaction of photosynthesis can be written as the following
chemical equation when sucrose is being made:
12 CO2 + 11 H2 O =C12 H22 O11 + 12 O2

This shows that oxygen is given off during the process of



Eugene, a biochemist, estimates that each
year the green plants on the earth combine
a total of 150 billion tons of carbon (from
carbon dioxide) with 25 billion tons of
hydrogen (from water) and liberate 400
billion tons of oxygen. The plants of the
forests and fields on land account for only
10 %, the 90% come from the one-celled
plants and seaweeds in oceans.

Sugar chemistry 1. 3
sugar, compound of carbon, hydrogen, and
oxygen belonging to a class of substances
called carbohydrates. Sugars fall into three
groups: the monosaccharides, disaccharides,
and trisaccharides. The monosaccharides are
the simple sugars; they include fructose and
glucose. The disaccharides are formed by the
union of two monosaccharides with the loss of
one molecule of water. Disaccharides include
lactose, maltose, and sucrose

Contd. Sugar chemistry

Less well known are the trisaccharides; raffinose is
a trisaccharide present in cottonseed and in sugar
beets. Sugars belong to two families denoted by the
letter d- or l- written before the name of a sugar. The
families are related to glyceraldehyde
CH2OHCHOHCHO, which can exist in two threedimensional forms that are mirror images of each
other. The isomer of glyceraldehyde that rotates
plane polarized light clockwise is labeled dglyceraldehyde; all natural sugars can be derived
from this substance and thus belong the the d
family. Although l-sugars can be prepared in the
laboratory, they cannot be utilized by animals.


The change of location

of 2 hydrogen atoms
in the molecule
glucose (formula =
C6H12O6), can
convert it into fructose
(ALSO = C6H12O6), a
different molecule.
Our taste-buds can
distinguish between
this change via the
ligand /receptor

Chemical formula:

The sugar industry, basis of operation. 4

Maximum sugar content in sugar cane
15% and sugar beet 17%
Sugar is highly soluble in water
Water as the universal solvent is
highly available and inexpensive
The industry exploits above facts to
dissolve the sugar out of the vegetable

Raw material preparation. 5

the raw material (cane or beets) enters
the sugar mill straight from the fields
It is unloaded onto chutes belt
Raw material is washed using high
pressure water jets
Wash water carrying soil, insecticides,..
is collected as wastewater stream

Sugar cane processing. 6

6.1 Crushing: juice (sugar solution) is
squeezed and collected.
design of the system
how to achieve maximum sugar
the solid waste ( baggasse ) stream,
what to do with it ?

Sugar cane processing

6.2. Clarification: removal of organic acids
impurities by adding milk of lime
(calcium hydroxide in water suspension).
This is a neutralization process. Insoluble
calcium compounds are precipitated.
Boiling is required to enhance the reaction
(and kills the bacteria that may be present)
6.3 Filtration: to separate the clear solution
from the solid material.
Question: what to do with the solid material

Sugar cane processing

6.4. Evaporation: to thicken the sugar
solution to the point where it can be
taken to a crystallization unit.
Very Important: Study all details
6.5. Crystallization:
Very Important: Study all details

A note about the invention of multiple effect


Norbert Rillieux is little known today, but his invention, the Multiple
Effect Evaporator under Vacuum, revolutionized sugar processing.
Rillieux, a free African American, patented his invention in the
The basic design is still in use in sugar processing and other
Rillieux utilized the latent heat produced from evaporating sugar
cane juice by employing a series of three or four closed evaporating
pans in which vapor was piped out of each pan to heat the juice in
the next, with the vapors in the end going to a condenser. At the
same time, pressure in the system was reduced by pumps, which
created partial vacuums and lowered the boiling point of the liquid.

Sugar Beet Processing. 7

Counter current mass transfer operation:

Design principle

How to increase the efficiency of the


Unit operation inputs and outputs