Plantrose technology uses water to breakdown plants, specifically the cellulose in it, and convert it into cellulosic fractions, for use as biobased ingredients in sustainable products.
In the Plantrose Process, water acts as both a solvent and catalyst, decrystalizing and dissolving the cellulose and hydrolyzing the cellulose polymers. The water is able to do this because it is reacting under supercritical conditions -- as supercritical water (water under pressure, at a high temperature).
What is supercritical water?
To understand supercritical water, you have to envision what happens to regular water when hot temperatures & high pressures are applied. At 373°C and 220 bars, normal water becomes supercritical water. "Supercritical" can be thought of as the "fourth state" of a material. It is not a solid, a liquid or a gas -- and appears as something like a vapor.
So, to picture supercritical water, think about a familiar example: boiling water on the stove. When a pot of water starts to boil, you can put pressure on the water and stop it from boiling; this occurs when we put a lid on that pot (or in a more extreme example, what happens in a pressure cooker). That action adds pressure — so the water will actually reach a higher temperature and go above the normal boiling point — until you get past a certain higher temperature, and then, suddenly it'll start boiling again.