Norbert Rillieux Norbert Rillieux was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 17, 1806. His mother, Constance Vivant was a freed slave from New Orleans, and his father, Vincent Rillieux, was a inventor and engineer. Vincent invented the steam-operated cotton baling press. Norbert’s academic talents were seen at an early age by his father, and was sent to Paris to be educated.
At the age of twenty-four, Norbert Rillieux was a teacher of applied mechanics at a school in Paris. In 1830, he put out a series of papers about steam economy and steam engine work, a prelude to his invention involving steam. In fact, it was during the time that he was writing these papers, most likely, that he created his theory about multiple effect evaporation. Between 1884 and 1854, he created the Rillieux apparatus, a revolutionary invention. In 1864, he patented his first model, and advanced the system for eight more years, and received more patents.
It took him ten years to create the final model because he was black, and there were prejudices he had to deal with in addition to his invention. Norbert Rillieux invented the triple effect vacuum evaporator. The ‘triple effect’ is for the multiple things that the system does all at the same time. The ‘vacuum’ is for the vacuum of air that is used in the system, and the ‘evaporator’ is for the sugarcane liquid syrup that is heated and evaporated into regular sugar. The actual system is somewhat complicated, so please see the picture that is provided. As I have stated, the purpose of the triple effect vacuum evaporator is to evaporate the liquid out of sugarcane syrup, the natural form of regular sugar, leaving the sugar crystals we can use.
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The way that the evaporator works is like this: Water is heated in the first container (1) which produces steam. The steam carries heat, called latent heat. A pump on the wall of the first container (1) pumps the steam into the second container (2).
The steam from the first container (1) heats the syrup and boils it, creating sugar crystals, in the second container (2), using up the latent heat in the steam from the first container (1).
The evaporating syrup creates it’s own steam, with latent heat as well. A pump on the opposite wall of the second container, (2), pumps the latent heat in the steam into the third container (3).
More steam is being pumped out of the second container (2) than into it, creating a vacuum in the second container (2).
The vacuum causes the boiling point of the sugarcane syrup to go down, meaning that less heat is required to evaporate the sugar. This process is again repeated in the fourth container (4), and in as many containers as are wanted, until the latent heat in the steam starts to dissipate. After the last container, in the picture the fourth container (4), has received it’s steam, the steam created by the syrup is pumped out of the container and into the condenser (5).
In the condenser (5), the steam is cooled and thereby turned back into water. After one cycle of sugar evaporation is complete, the sugar that was produced is moved and put elsewhere, new sugarcane syrup is put into the containers, (2), (3), (4), the water in the condenser (5) is recycled and put back into the first container (1), and another cycle of sugar evaporation begins.
After his final model in 1854, Rillieux returned to Paris where he lost his interest in engineering and studied Egyptology. In 1881, he again started to improve his system, but he lost his patent, and he never again worked on his system of sugar evaporation. On October 8, 1894, he died a poor man.
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