Autoclaves are true marvels of modern technology that continue to help the work of the medical industry each day. An autoclave is a pressure chamber. It is also termed steam sterilizers or steam autoclave. A physical method is used in sterilization and disinfection. A functionality of steam sterilizers can be simple as compared to pressure cooker.
Applications of Autoclaves
- In laboratories, it is applied to sterilize glassware, instruments, and media.
- In medical laboratories, it is used for the sterilization of medical equipment, glassware, surgical equipment, and medical trash, and many more.
- Autoclave also used to sterilize medical wastes which carry bacteria, viruses, and other biological materials.
Working Principal of an Autoclave
Autoclaves can also be used to take out all kinds of industrial processes and scientific experiments that work best at high heats and pressures.
All autoclaves work with a combination of steam, pressure, and time. They operate using principles similar to the common kitchen pressure cooker — that is, the door is locked to form a sealed chamber, and all air within that chamber is replaced by steam. The steam is then pressurized to bring it to the desired sterilization for the desired duration.
Let’s explain the autoclave working by three phases of a sterilization cycle:
- Purge phase: In this phase, steam displaces air within the autoclave chamber and both temperature and pressure begin to increases
- Sterilization phase: In this phase autoclaves, harsh conditions destroy bacteria, spores, and other pathogens.
- Exhaust phase: pressure is released from the chamber, the temperature remains high.
Operating Procedures of Autoclaves:
- Firstly set the material within the autoclave which is required to sterilize.
- Then seal the lid and make it airtight by tightening the screws and after that switched on the autoclave.
- Now, set the safety valves to sustain the required pressure
- Once the water inside the chamber boils, the air-water mixture is allowed to escape through the discharge tube to make all the air inside be displaced.
- The whole displacement can be ensured once the water bubbles stop coming out from the pipe.
- Then close the drainage pipe and let the steam reach the desired levels
- Once the pressure is reached, the whistle blows to remove excess pressure from the chamber.
- Allow the whistle to hold the autoclave for 15 minutes, this is known as the holding period.
- Now, the autoclave is switched off and allows it to cool till the pressure gauge shows the pressure inside has dropped down to that of the atmospheric pressure.
- Eventually, the lid is opened and the material is come out from the chamber
Ideal Temperature Time for Autoclave Sterilization
For autoclave sterilization, the most common temperature is 121°C, however, many autoclaves provide cycles at higher temperatures. If heavy objects are being sterilized, heat transfer to the interior should be slow, and the heating time needs to be sufficiently long so that the object is at 121°C for 15 min. Extended times are also required when large volumes of liquids are being autoclaved as large volumes take longer to reach sterilization temperature.
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