Thanks to ion exchange resins from LANXESS, sugar becomes the white and sweet product that we have in our kitchens. We all like to use sugar, and not just to bake Christmas cookies. Whether in coffee, tea or mulled wine: sweetness is a treat we enjoy each day.
Lewatit® Sweetens the Day
But before unrefined sugar can become white refined sugar or sugar syrup for the sweet industry, it must make its way through a rather long process. First, sugar beets and sugarcane are processed and an extract is derived from them. In addition to the coveted sucrose – the actual sugar – this extract also contains salts, acids and proteins. To remove these non-sugar components, the unrefined juice is blended with milk of lime and quicklime. Following this, carbon dioxide is added, and the result is a yellowish brown juice. This is where the ion exchange resins by LANXESS come in: They are used to filter the dark juice, softening it by removing the salts it contains. The result is a bright yellow, clear liquid. The liquid is then placed in evaporator stations to thicken it, passed through ion exchangers to remove the remaining coloration, and then crystallized. The end product is refined sugar: the highest grade of pure, white sugar.
TThe mechanism of ion exchange resins is actually quite simple. The millimeter-sized beige and amber polymer beads bind certain ions from the raw sugar solutions while releasing other ions back into solution. This is how they can absorb unwanted salts while introducing hydrogen or hydroxide ions to the raw sugar solution – releasing water. To remove the dark coloring from the unprocessed sugar, the polymer beads remove color molecules without releasing other ions in return. This process has already convinced more than 1,000 customers in the food industry worldwide. Lewatit® has already caught on throughout this country as well: “Our ion exchange resins are in use at all of the leading German sugar producers,” explains Hans-Karl Soest, Head of Technical Marketing at the LANXESS Liquid Purification Technologies business unit (BU LPT).
They use the little beads to make soft drinks, yogurt, bread, beer, gummy bears and even toothpaste. Lewatit® is also used in the production of other sweeteners. To be able to meet the rising demand, the parent plant in Leverkusen received reinforcements: Since April 1999, the resins have been produced by IAB Ionenaustauscher GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of LANXESS located in Bitterfeld, Germany.