Uchchatar Avishkar Yojana: Membrane Technology for Clarification of Sugar Cane Juice

Test Tubes from A to E show Raw Juice clarified via membrane processing

  • A – Raw sugar cane juice
  • B – 1st membrane clarification
  • C – 2nd membrane clarification
  • D – Pure water from juice
  • E – Concentrated Juice

Researchers at IIT Delhi are developing a technology that can save time and energy in extracting sugar from sugar cane juice.

The research project titled –Membrane Technology for Clarification of Sugar Cane Juice—is a part of the Uchchatar Avishkar Yojana(UAY) of the Ministry of Human Resource Development(MHRD). The industry partner for this project is Chemical System Technologies India Pvt Ltd.

The conventional technology for the production of crystallized sugar involves, extraction of juice from sugar cane by crushing followed by clarifying the juice using chemico-physical methods.The clarified juice is concentrated in multi-effect evaporators and crystallized into white sugar.To get refined sugar having the highest purity, the concentrated juice/affination syrup may be decolorized before crystallization using further physico-chemical based clarification processes(i.e. ion exchange, activated carbon etc).

Membrane based pressure driven technologies, namely, Reverse Osmosis (RO), Nanofiltration (NF), Ultrafiltration (UF) and Microfiltration MF) are extensively being used in various niche applications. These technologies can separate a wide range of solutes as small as common salt and glucose and large particulate matter like microbial cells in micro-meter range. These technologies have several advantages over other separation processes like: separation of solutes in same phase, elimination of thermal damage of the product, no or little extra chemical requirements, and reduction in energy requirement.

“We at IIT Delhi believe that time has come when sugar cane juice can be clarified and concentrated using appropriate membrane based technologies thus saving chemicals and energy cost. In addition, membrane based technologies may improve the yield and quality of crystallized sugar. Lack of availability and understanding of new generation of membrane technologies like ultrafiltration and nanofiltration may be cited as chief reasons for India not to integrate these technologies in sugar cane juice processing,” says principal investigator Prof Gopal P Agarwal.