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Ion Exchange Resins in Corn Sweetener Refining
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What is Chromatographic Separation?
Different sugars passing through a bed of strong acid cation resin in the calcium or sodium form will separate from one another chromatographically due either to a difference in affinity for the resin or to different rates of diffusion into and out of the resin beads. This separation technique can be used to create solutions which have sugar profiles that provide the desired sweetness, taste or physical properties for a consumer product.
A 55% fructose solution will match the sweetness of sucrose when used in soft drinks. This sweetener is produced by passing a 42% fructose solution through a calcium form strong acid cation resin to effect a separation and create a 75-90% fructose solution which can be blended back with additional 42% fructose to produce a 55% fructose purity.
Another class of sweeteners produced utilizing chromatographic separation is the sugar alcohols. Hydrogenation of sugars to produce sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, erythritol, xylitol or polyols requires high purity feedstocks in order to avoid unwanted byproduct sugar alcohols. As a common example, 95% dextrose is enriched to a 99.4%+ dextrose purity on a sodium or potassium form strong acid cation resin prior to hydrogenation to sorbitol.
In the production of 55 HFCS from dextrose, an economical limit of 42-46% fructose is achieved using isomerase enzyme. To obtain a higher purity fructose solution, the dextrose and fructose must be separated to produce two fractions, both of which are enriched in either sweetener.
This is accomplished via chromatographic separation on a fractionation ion exchange resin. The fructose-rich fraction can be blended into a 55% fructose solution while the dextrose-rich fraction is recycled in the HFCS refining process.
Owing to a greater number of sites available for hydrogen bonding, the fructose molecule will form a coordination complex with calcium ions fixed onto a strong acid cation resin. This results in a preferential affinity of the resin for the fructose molecule over the glucose molecule and hence a chromatographic separation of the two sweeteners as they pass through the resin bed. From a feed solution containing a purity of 42% fructose by weight, the fructose in the product fraction can reach in excess of 99% purity.
When producing 55% fructose, the optimum productivity and efficiency of the system is achieved by enriching to an 85-90% fructose concentration. Blending this product with a 42% fructose solution to produce the 55% fructose will match the sweetness of sucrose in soft drinks. When enriching to produce crystalline fructose, a product purity in excess of 95% fructose is desired prior to the crystallization step.
When enriching fructose to produce 55 HFCS with a simulated moving bed chromatographic separation system, a product purity of 90% fructose can be achieved at a 90% recovery of the fructose in the feed steam and a desorbent consumption of 1.1-1.25 lbs. water per lb. of 55 HFCS dry solids.
The production achieved will be approximately 200 lbs. of 55 HFCS dry solids/cu. ft. resin per day depending on the type of system and resin utilized. At constant production and desorbent consumption the purity and recovery will vary inversely with each other.
Chromatographic separation of dextrose is also commercially practiced to separate the dextrose from the oligosaccharides and produce a dextrose purity in excess of 99% in order to minimize unwanted byproducts in the subsequent hydrogenation to sorbitol or in fermentation. Dextrose separation from oligosaccharides occurs due to a difference in the rate of diffusion into and out of the monovalent form cation fractionation resin.
55 HFCS Chromatographic Separation Material Balance