Autoclaves sterilize are devices that are designed to sterilize a variety of lab equipment and media for growing lab cultures. Autoclaves are also used to sterilize medical tools and piercing equipment. Their primary purpose is to rid items and liquids of any and all bacteria and contamination by using a combination of high heat and high pressure.
An autoclave is, perhaps, one of the most important devices in the medical field. It heats solutions above their boiling point to sterilize medical or laboratory instruments. Theautoclave is also used in industry to “cure” some products during the manufacturing process.
An autoclave is a large steel device with a sealed inner compartment. When the compartment is filled with medical utensils, beakers filled with media and other biohazard waste to be sterilized, high pressure steam fills the chamber.
The autoclave has a network of steam valves and tubes inside the compartment that pump in water that is boiled into steam form. The door of the compartment creates an airtight seal that increases pressure. The combination of pressure and extreme heat makes it impossible for bacteria to survive. Temperatures can rise above 130 degrees C inside
There are several types of autoclaves. One of the simplest looks a great deal like a pressure cooker. It is a large pot with a gauge on top and bolts that fasten the top to the pot. The idea behind this is that water inside a pressurized container can be heated above the boiling point. It will only reach 212°F (100°C) in an open container. However, in a pressurized autoclave, the water will reach much higher temperatures.
Most doctor’s offices have a small autoclave in their labs, and these are used to sterilize small batches of dental equipments. This type is usually on a cart and is similar in size to a microwave oven. It can also be wheeled around to where it is needed.
Autoclaves can be extremely dangerous to use. When using an autoclave, do not adjust the pressure or temperature settings, as these should be set and maintained by a lab staff member. When using an autoclave, always wear heat-resistant gloves, a lab apron and protective goggles.
When opening an autoclave, wait at least 15 minutes after a cycle has ended before unlocking the door. Wait until the pressure gauge reads "0." The vacuum seal created can cause the door to blast off the unit or hot steam to rush out. Slowly open the door to let any leftover pressure out after waiting for the unit to cool down. Never remove items using your bare hands, as items will be very hot.