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You might be wondering what castor oil is doing in a blog about renewable energy and sustainability.

But castor crop and oil are closer to sustainability and renewable energy than most of us think.

The castor plant has been known to man for ages. Castor beans have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to 4000 B.C., and the oil was used thousands of years ago in wick lamps for lighting. To many people the castor plant is just an overgrown, undesirable weed and yet it produces one of nature’s finest natural oils.

Many years ago, castor oil was primarily used for medicinal purposes and as a general industrial lubricant. Later, chemical engineers were able to produce derivatives of the oil that found many more uses. Now, the number of uses of castor oil is quite diverse indeed, in a variety of industrial sectors.

Sulfonated (sulfated) castor oil, or Turkey Red Oil , was the first synthetic detergent  after ordinary soap, and other forms of the oil became important for the treatment of leather, industrial lubricants, and other industrial uses. Today, chemical engineers have come up with many uses of castor oil and its derivatives such as: Polyamide 11 (Nylon 11) engineering plastic , lubricating grease, coatings, inks, sealant, aircraft lubricants, surfactants , emulsifiers , encapsulants, plastic films, plasticizer for coatings, and components for shatterproof safety glass. Castor oil has even made its way into cosmetics and related products due to its non comedogenicity . Thus, castor oil and its derivatives have become an important commodity to the chemical industry. Please remember that many of these derivatives replace products so far produced from petroleum, so we are talking about some serious green stuff here.

And on the connection between castor oil and renewable energy, there have been significant efforts going on, especially in Brazil to explore the use of castor oil as a feedstock for biodiesel production. It is early days in this context, but castor oil might not be such a bad bet for biodiesel!

Read more about the uses of this rather versatile oil from here –