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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Sugars and Beyond!

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Sugars and Beyond! Food – Matter – Energy

Collage: Elementary sugar topics - a left half of a sugar beet with leaves, claws of a Japanese spider crab, a right half of a wooden violin body, sugar cane stems, measuring instrument, portrait of Franz Carl Achard, "father of the sugar beet".

Collage to the exhibition "Sugars and Beyond!" © SDTB/design: gewerkdesign, Berlin

Our world is composed of sugar

Sugar is the origin of all life. Plants store the sun’s energy in sugar. Sugars provide plants with stability and serve as the storehouses of the energy needed for growth and propagation. The major part of the biomass of this planet is made up of sugar.

Everywhere you look – Sugar!

The exoskeletons of insects, spiders and crustaceans are comprised of chitin, a modified sugar polymer. Even our bodies contain many different sugar compounds. Sugar is our most important energy supplier for muscles and the brain.

Sugar – as numerous as grains of sand

There are numerous other sugars besides the well-known sucrose (table sugar). Fruit sugar, grape sugar, milk sugar and malt sugar are among the most familiar. Chemists know about dozens more.

Japanese spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi), dry preparation © SDTB / photo: C. Kirchner

Graphic: The sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum L.). Coloured steel engraving from E. Schenk: "Atlas der vorzüglichen Handelspflanzen", plate XXX, around 1830

The sugar cane (steel engraving, around 1830) © SDTB / Historical archive, Sugar-Museum

One sugar is rarely alone

Sugars are sociable, often appearing in pairs, or triplets or even in longer chains, the so-called polymers. The best-known polymers are cellulose and starch. But the chitin from insects, the pectin in jam or the hyaluronic acid in our cartilages are also part of this group.

Sugar is versatile

People have been using the different sugars for food, as raw materials and for energy generation for thousands of years. Plants like wheat, rice, corn or potatoes that contain starch are the food staples for every culture. Besides stone, wood has the longest history of use as a base material. Wood and biomass have been used as energy sources for time immemorial.

Sugar for the modern world

Sugar compounds serve as the starting material for the production of modern bioplastics. The use of various sugar compounds can potentially close existing energy gaps. Biomass could make a world without oil possible.

Photo: Franz Carl Achard, bronze by Ferdinand Lepcke, around 1898

Franz Carl Achard (1753-1821), the "father of the sugar beet". © SDTB / photo: C. Kirchner

The Exhibition

The exhibition is divided into four main areas:

  • Sugars are Everywhere
    The ubiquitous nature of sugar is presented here and the examination of the diversity of this class of substances expanded.

  • From luxury good to everyday product
    The history of the sweetener sugar is told in detail and the process by which sugar is produced from beets is depicted.

  • Sugar instead of oil
    New avenues in materials research, energy production and medicine that use sugars as the starting material are presented here.

  • Wedding-Berlin Roots
    The history of the Institute for Sugar Industry and the Sugar Museum, located in Berlin-Wedding from 1904 until 2012, are here the focus.
Photo: Large plastic bags are one behind the other suspended from a wooden frame.  Using sunlight, therein cyanobacteria produce ethanol from seawater and carbon dioxide.

Bioreactors in Fort Myers, Florida, 2015 © Algenol Biofuels

Thematically expanded exhibition

The exhibition "Sugars and Beyond!" is the first permanent exhibition covering the topic of sugar that goes far beyond the mere presentation of the history, production and use of cane and beet sugar and which places the importance of sugar in nature in its proper light.
Technical and scientific questions relating to the other exhibition areas surrounding this new department in the Deutsches Technikmuseum are taken up as well.

Graphik: Logo of the Lotto-Stiftung Berlin - a white four-leaf clover on black background and the out written name of the foundation


The exhibition "Sugars and Beyond!" was funded by the LOTTO-Stiftung Berlin.

We would like to thank the Friends of the Sugar Museum e.V. for its many years of support.