Castor seed is grown commercially on plantations but also harvested from wild plants. The seed must be hulled after harvesting. This can be done laboriously by hand or, more commonly, by machine. Small-scale hand-operated dehullers are available. The castor seeds contain about 50 percent oil by weight. To extract the oil they must be crushed and pressed with hydraulic or continuous screw pressing at high or low temperature. High temperature hydraulic pressing yields 80 percent of available oil. Further solvent extraction can release much of the remaining oil. Modification of the castor oil is achieved by a variety of chemical processes including oxidation, hydrogenation and thermal treatments to produce products for specific applications.
Extraction of oil from castor seeds is done in a manner similar to that for most other oil seeds.The ripe seeds are allowed to dry, when they split open and discharge the seeds. The seeds are dehulled after harvesting. Dehulling can be done by hand (laborious) or, more commonly, by machine. Small-scale hand-operated dehullers are also available.The dehulled seeds are cleaned, cooked and dried prior to oil extraction. Cooking is done to coagulate protein (necessary to permit efficient extraction), and for efficient pressing. The first stage of oil extraction is pre-pressing, normally using a high pressure continuous screw press – called the expeller. Extracted oil is filtered, and the material removed from the oil is fed back into the stream along with fresh material. Material finally discharged from the press, called castor cake, contains 8-10% oil. It is crushed into a coarse meal, and subjected to solvent extraction with heptane to extract further oil.
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