Sugar is present in every single green plant in the world. However, commercial sugar (Sucrose) can be found either in sugar cane or in beet-sugar. Some details of the production process varies depending on where the sugar will be extracted from (1). An important aspect to explain why sugar cane is the most used source of sugar, is the fact that cane grows in the tropics and the semi-tropics; nonetheless, beet only does in the temperate zones.
Sugar Cane is a grass that grows in tropical and subtropical areas. “Cane is a perennial, springing up each year from the bud which forms on the harvest stubble” (1). Replanting is not required every year depending on the zone where it is being grown. As a highlight, cultivation, irrigation, and fertilizing are not necessary unless intensive farming is being done. Seasons can go from six to twenty-four months depending on the region. Similarly, harvest times vary depending on the zone, and could range from three to twelve months. Normally, seasons are shorter in The USA than in the Caribbean because of the climate. To produce it, planters have to plant a mother cane that will bear a bud. After the harvest, sugar cane is taken very fast to factories where it will be processed. Due to the fact that sugar cane starts loosing moist and sucrose content after is cut, transportation has to be efficient and fast. (1)
Sugar produced from cane could be either raw or refined so the production process varies from one to another.In the case of raw sugar, sugar juices are removed from the plant by grinding it and crushing it. This can be done by passing slices of the plant through sets of rollers. While doing so, bagasse is produced. The juice extracted from the plant is clarified or defecated to reduce the content of impurities that could interfere with the crystallization process. This is done by applying lime and using heat. The final product is pure sucrose called “thin juice.” In order to reduce the ratio of water to sugar, evaporation, boiling, and crystallization have to be done. First, evaporation takes care of any excess water. Second, vacuum pans are used to boil it and subtract even more excess water. Finally, the product is cooled and crystallized.(1)
Sugar from sugar cane can be refined. “An average raw mill grinds from 3,000 to 5,000 tons of cane a day to produce between 900,000 to 1,500,00 pounds of raw sugar.(1)” However, refineries are able to produce much larger quantities of sugar. For example, the largest refinery of the world can produce 6,000,000 pounds per day. Refineries collect the produce from many mills and then refines it. The first step is washing the product to extract molasses on the surface of the crystals. This is done by adding water to it and mingled with an U-shaped trough. The result from this is called “magma.” Then, the process will be repeated, and it is called “defecation.” Sugar will be filtrated to remove color and dissolved impurities(1).
Beet Sugar comes from a plant that is biennial that grows in temperate zone. As a highlight, Before World War I the cost of using the seed of sugar-beet required too much special care so the product was scarce and countries like “Germany were the most feasible sources”(1). The seed consist of three germs which can develop different kinds of plants. This has been a problem for growers of the plant because it involves more work and requires different actions to be taken. Sugar from sugar beet is mostly found inside the roots but is not distributed uniformly. In order to harvest, a machine cuts off the tops before lifting the roots. Beet-sugar factories are mostly located in the middle of the plantations but some are not. Those have storage along railways. Temperature plays a big role on drying the root so the process normally has to be quick. (1)
The production of sugar from beet-sugar happens as follows: Once the beets are in the factor, they are cleaned by screening. They are weighted to ensure the true weight, and the sugar content is analyzed in the laboratory with a polariscope. After that, the sugar is washed and sliced. in diffusion chamber with fourteen to twenty-one diffusion cells, the sucrose is collected with hot water. In the process, beet pulp is produced. The product from the diffusion batteries is later purified. Lime is added to the produce and then carbon dioxide is bubbled to it. Limestone rock is a great source for both ingredients. Then, the product is filtrated and thickened. After these processes, the product is boiled and later crystallized.
(1) Van, Hook A. Sugar: Its Production, Technology, and Uses. New York: Ronald Press Co, 1949. Print.