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TNO has developed a revolutionary concept for the 'sugar factory of the future'. TNO's separation technology makes it possible to increase the sugar yield from raw sugar beets by ten per cent and to reduce the costs of this large-scale extraction process. Conventional processes for sugar extraction are based on refining raw sugar beet juice, in a process of eliminating all the impurities until only crystallized sugar remains. The new concept developed by TNO turns this process on its head: only sugar molecules are extracted from the beet juice, leaving other juice components where they are.
TNO's separation technology is based on conducting the raw juice through a bed of small particles. At temperatures of about 35 degrees Celsius, the sugar molecules selectively attach to the small particles. The sugar molecules are released from these particles when the temperature is raised to 90 degrees Celsius. The development started with a successful 'proof of principle'. Further stages of the project include a detailed economic analysis and upgrading the process from laboratory scale to the kind of bulk production that is common within the sugar industry.
The technology makes use of fluid bed separation technology and uses porous absorbents having unsaturated hydrocarbon groups exposed on its (internal) surface. At temperatures of about 35 degrees Celsius, the sugar molecules selectively attach to absorbent particles. The sugar molecules are released from these particles when the temperature is raised to 90 degrees Celsius.
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