Wednesday, December 1

Extracting sugar from sago starch

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KOTA SAMARAHAN: Sago sugar could soon hit the market as a healthier alternative to cane sugar as Resource Science and Technology Faculty of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) has developed a process to convert starch from the palm into sugar.

Faculty head Prof Dr Kopli Bujang yesterday said his research team managed to produce one kilogramme (kg) of sugar from one kg of sago starch adding that only 100 kg of sugar could be extracted from one tonne of sugarcane.

“There is no waste in using sago starch because we have 100 per cent recovery. One tonne of sago starch will produce one tonne of sugar. This provides good economic value.

“At the moment, the country is importing about 90 per cent of its sugar consumption. This will be a good economic opportunity for the state,” he told reporters when met after the opening of the 2nd Asean Sago Symposium; Advances in Sago research and development at DeTAR Putra, Unimas here.

Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud officiated at the event.

Kopli highlighted that sago sugar had another advantage as it was found to be as sweet as glucose while providing only 50 per cent calories.

“This would be good to diabetic patients and those sensitive to sugar. However, bear in mind that we have not done 100 per cent pharmaceutical analysis yet. It is currently being tested,” he added.

When asked if a deadline had been set for sago sugar to be commercialised, Kopli said his research team planned to produce about one tonne by Christmas (Dec 25) for product sampling purposes.

Touching on production capacity, he stated that the pilot plant at the university only had production capacity of about 50 kg per process.

Kopli explained that the initial objective to create sago sugar was to provide an alternative to produce ethanol or lactic acid. However, it is understood that producing sugar from starch is more viable as it is not economical to produce bio-fuel from food.

Sago sugar is produced after five to six hours by enzymatic hydrolisis of sago starch in water at 90 degrees Celsius. Liquid sago sugar is purified using activated carbon and crystallised in the oven. It contains 96 per cent glucose and the rest is maltose.

Research on producing sugar from sago starch at Unimas started in 1999 and the first report based on the work of Kopli and Prof Emeritus Dr Ayaaki Ishizaki of Kyushu University was published in the Annual Report of IC-Biotech, Osaka University in 2000.