We seem to really love sugary snacks, like candy, soda, cookies, and cake. There is common denominator here, sugar. All these products contain sugar which make them taste delicious. But the question is where does this sugar come from? Plants make sugar through the process of photosynthesis. Of all the plants, sugar beets and sugar cane contain the greatest quantities of sugar; that’s why these two plants are chosen to extract sugar. In this article we want to focus on the process of sugar extraction in sugar beets and how the role that Bronkhorst flow meters have in this process.

Agricultural vehicle harvesting sugar beet on cultivated field

Convergence Industry B.V. is a supplier of customized measurement and control systems for liquids and gases. One of the customers of Convergence discovered that by using membrane filtration, it was possible to extract more components out of the sugar beet than sugar alone. This is a customized lab scale system for Nano filtration was used.

Membrane Filtration

Membrane filtrations is a high-quality purification process using sophisticated techniques. How does this work? A simple explanation of it would be comparing it to making a pot of coffee. If you pour water in a coffee filter filled with coffee beans, you want coffee as a result without the shell of the coffee bean. That’s what the filter is for. On another level this process is similar to water filtration where you to want to filter the ions, so you can make the drinking water out of seawater.

Collaboration with convergence for membrane filtration

For the membrane filtration a ‘Convergence inspector for Colossus’ can be used. This is a fully automated customized lab scale system for nano filtration which makes it interesting. Felix Broens (Chief Technology officer of Convergence Industry B.V.) explains how this system works:

“The nanofiltration system is fed with water in which a phosphate free anti scalant is dosed. Using a high pressure pump the system is pressurized, causing a part of the water to pass to the membrane (permeate). The part of the water that cannot pass through the membrane (retentate) is led back to where the water has been fed. An extra pump in the recirculation conduit causes a higher velocity across the surface of the membrane, which reduces pollution on the membrane itself. The permeate can eventually be used as clean water for different applications.”

“The anti scalant is used to prevent scaling on the membrane, by forming a complex of metal-containing ions, which keeps them in the retentate stream so that they can be led out of the system. Because of using a phosphate free and biodegradable anti scalant, it doesn’t have any harmful effects on the environment.”

Bronkhorst flow meters in membrane filtration

 

The heart of the nanofiltration system is a Bronkhorst Coriolis mass flow meter for controlling the process. It uses a Coriolis flow meter because it can measure density as well, which is important in case of sugary solutions. The flow meter is placed at the ‘clean’ side of the process, so behind the membrane where the permeate flow takes place (the purified product flow). The degree of separation of the membrane can be influenced by both flow speed and pressure. And thus a Coriolis flow meter with a wide range is the best option to cover a large test range

This convergence system has made it possible for their customer to improve their process enormously. Before using the convergence system it was a manual process is automated using client-specific Convergence software which makes it possible to accurately control the Coriolis mass flow meter with the pump and therefor, the permeate flow can now be controlled accurately and fast. This results in a good reproducibility, reliability, data logging and shorter lead times for the experiment compared to as it was before. This customized lab scale system makes it possible to generate enough residue for testing purposes without making it necessary to upscale the process to a pilot plant.