In the production of crystal white sugar, the sugarcane juice clarification utilize sulfite (SO2) to reduce juice color. However, some studies claimed the induction of health, operational and environmental problems in the use of sulfite and their derivatives in foods. An alternative would be hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) that is capable to decompose the juice pigments. H2O2 can be generated electrochemically, avoiding transportation and storage, therefore, reducing production costs when used in the liquid form. Combining the iron ions (present in the juice and/or due to the continuous regeneration at the cathode) its oxidation capacity increases by electro-Fenton reactions (or e-Fenton). This project will aim to test e-Fenton as a substitute for sulfite focusing on reduction mechanism of color and turbidity. It will be used mass spectrometry (FT-ICR) and high performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC) as well as methodologies that evaluates physicochemical characteristics of the juice. There will also be a study of the degradation kinetics with e-Fenton in model systems containing only sucrose and juice pigments (such as gallic acid), to eliminate interference from other juice components. Similarly, the mechanistic degradation of pigments by FT-ICR will be set. Finally, the results should subsidize to the survey of ecnomic viability of the technology and proposition of a patentable process to be adopted by sugar-energy industries.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: