Sugar is a commodity grown, processed and traded around the world. More than 125 million metric tons are produced a year, with approximately 70% coming from sugar cane and 30% from sugar beets. In general, sugar beats are grown in moderate climates in the north and south with sugar cane growing in tropical climates.
Sugar cane is crushed to remove the sugar containing juice, leaving the fibrous bagasse remaining. The bagasse can be analyzed for moisture and sugar to verify the completion of the sugar extraction before the bagasse is used as fuel to power the plant. The extracted juice as well as syrups during the refining process can be analyzed for brix and pol as an indication of sugar content and purity. The purified sugar can be analyzed for moisture content to verify proper drying.
Sugar beets are processed by chopping the beets into small chips and extracting the sugar with a hot water solution. The sugar beet pieces are then pressed to remove the residual sugar solution and the remaining sugar beet pulp is dried and sold as an animal feed ingredient that is high in protein and fiber. The extracted solution is concentrated and the sugar is purified by crystalization of the concentrated syrup. At each step of the process, the concentration of sugar as expressed in brix and pol values is important data to optimizing the efficient production of sugar.
NIR analyzers have been used for many years for payment and inputs to process control in sugar factory. NIR analyzers can analyze the bagasse and all intermediates as well as the final product for brix, pol, moisture and other parameters in 30 seconds. For sugar beets, the nutritional content of the beet pulp can also be monitored to ensure constistent quality and best price for this by-product. Timely, accurate, at-line analysis can facilitate maximum profitablity for the sugar processing industry.