Flax plant (also known as lin) has been cultivated for thousand of years. One variety – flax type – has been grown for fiber production, and the other one – seed type – for its seed.
Linseed – sometimes referred to as flaxseed – is the seed of the flax plant. Linseed oil, which is pressed from flaxseed and extracted with a petroleum solvent, is used primarily for industrial purposes. It can also be produced by cold press and used in its crude state, but more often than not, linseed oil is the starting oil for many industrial processes.
Linseed oil has a number of interesting properties – such as film forming, fast drying, binding – that have found their use in manufacturing. There are various viscosity levels and grades available. This versatile substance can be used in the following industries: paint, petroleum, construction, nutraceuticals, agriculture, livestock, leather and sports goods.
Linseed oil has resolvent properties. Its drying properties are the most often exploited, because the initial material is liquid, or a least pliable, and the aged material is rigid without being brittle. It is also used for protecting against rust, and on wooden materials for shine and longevity.
It is best known for its function in the production of paints and coatings. Because of its drying and hardening properties when exposed to the air and light, paints and coatings containing linseed oil are considered the highest quality and most durable of products.
Furthermore, it is used as a binder for pigment pastes, and to make synthetic resins for printing inks, stand oils, and varnishes. It is considered as the primary drying oil for its performance against cost. That’s why it has also found its use in lacquers, enamels, oilcloth, oil clothing, tarpaulins and tenting, patent leather, textiles, soap, shoe polish and other specialty items.
Linoleum flooring, putty, wood finish, and plastics may all contain linseed oil. It is used for making lubricants and sealants. Traditionally, it is used as a finish for gun stocks. In recent years, it is also regaining importance as a renewable raw material. Many bio-products can be produced using flax: for example, linoleum is biodegradable, non-allergenic, and has natural antimicrobial properties.
The largest producer of linseed oil in the world is Canada, and the majority of linseed oil that trades internationally is imported by developing countries. The demand for this crop with a broad range of uses is expected to increase further.