If you've ever heard of cottonseed oil you may want to know how to de-lint cotton seed. Early on, this was a long and tedious process, done by hand. While many devices were developed to process cotton, the first that was able to remove cotton seed of American (short-staple) cotton, was the cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney. His device has been copied and improved on, but the basic process is the same, and begins the process of de-linting the cotton seed.
- Process the cotton in a Cotton Gin.
- Pile the cotton bolls into the top of the machine.
- Crank the cotton through the gin. Inside the gin a wooden cylinder rolls the cotton over a series of metal "teeth". The teeth catch hold of the cotton and pull the fibers through slots which are too small for the cotton seeds to follow. What's left after the cotton is removed is sent on for de-linting.
2. De-lint the cotton seed.
- Cleaning. The seed is run through a series of screen to remove any extras like dirt and leaves.
- De-linting. The attached short fibers are cut by machines that are a bit like gins, but, according to the Kansas City Agricultural Extension Service, with "circular saws and finer teeth." These fibers are then "pneumatically removed through a series of revolutions". Finer grade seed is run through twice.
After the cotton seed is de-linted, this "leftover" from the cotton industry is surprisingly versatile. De-linted cotton seed can be planted, fed to livestock, made into cottonseed oil for human consumption, used for fertilizer, or used in products like lotions and soap. A lot of mileage from a little seed!