Castor Oil is a vegetable (non-edible) oil extracted from the seeds of castor plant (Ricinus communis) belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae. Castor plant produces castor seeds that contains up to 50% oil by weight.
Castor is one of the world's top ten oil-seeds crops and it is highly competitive in the agriculture environment. Castor cultivation is buoyed by a new wave of worldwide demand for castor oil and so it enjoys great economic potential.
Castor oil is a proven competitor as it is a critical raw material for the industrial chemical markets. It is natural, renewable and very versatile oil being used in over ten diverse industries. It has been a staple for the oleochemical markets for a very long time. Owing to its unique chemical structure, castor oil can be used as a starting raw material for producing a wide range of end-product.
With new application of castor oil being explored, especially in the areas of pharmaceutical, biofuels and bioplastics, these end user markets for castor oil and its derivatives are expected to expand significantly over the next few years.
Castor Oil is increasingly becoming an important bio-based raw material for industrial applications. The oil is a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fatty acid esters linked to a glycerol. The presence of hydroxyl group, a double bond, carboxylic group and long chain hydrocarbon in ricinoleic acid (a major component of the oil), offer several possibilities of transforming it into variety of materials. The oil is thus a potential alternative to petroleum-based starting chemicals for the production of materials with variety of properties. Despite this huge potential, very little has recently been reviewed on the use of castor oil as a bio-resource in the production of functional materials.
The demand for castor oil and its products in the world market has been on steady increase partly due their renewable nature, non-competition with food, biodegradability, low costs and eco-friendliness. It is now estimated that the castor oil has over 700 industrial uses and the uses keep on increasing.
With the rising environmental concerns and the need for bio-based products to replace synthetic feed stocks, castor oil and castor oil derivatives have the potential to be used in many newer industries.