Autoclaving is the most effective method of sterilizing the lab equipment specially for liquid handling products to kill harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores. The autoclaving process takes advantage of the phenomenon that the boiling point of water (or steam) increases when it is under high pressure. It is performed in a machine known as the Autoclave where high pressure is applied with a recommended temperature of 250°F (121°C) for 15-20 minutes to sterilize the equipment. Autoclaving or steam sterilizer is used in several industries including medicine, dentistry, microbiology and veterinary science.
How does an autoclave kill bacteria?
Autoclaves make use of steam that is set to high levels of heat and pressure throughout a set period of time.They heat up objects above boiling point and create a low-pressure environment.By doing this, they are able to kill various types of bacteria, germs, and spores that cannot be killed with powerful detergents and boiling water.
So, why steam? Well, steam is known to be a powerful agent in killing harmful microorganisms.Moist heat is known to be a better agent in transferring heat in comparison to dry heat, which makes the sterilisation process much more effective.To put things into perspective, try to think of a pressure cooker.Just like a pressure cooker, an autoclave is a pressure chamber device that conducts sterilisation processes in a contained and controlled environment.
Does autoclave kill all bacteria?
Autoclaves are capable of killing all types of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and even spores, which are known to survive at high temperatures and can only be killed at temperatures around 130°C.
The advantage of autoclaves is that you can freely control the heat and pressure level in order to thoroughly sanitise an instrument and ensure that it is free of all harmful microorganisms, especially those that cannot be killed through ordinary methods.
This is why autoclaves are widely used especially in the medical field in lieu of, say, a microwave.
They are able to evenly distribute high power energy to eliminate different types of contaminants.
Though there are some studies that are investigating if there are types of bacteria that cannot be autoclaved, so far there is no known pathogen (an infectious agent), that cannot be killed by an autoclave.
When to Autoclave?
Autoclaves can be used to eliminate microorganisms, cure composites, vulcanize rubber, and for hydrothermal synthesis. Autoclaving is a very dependable method for the sterilization and decontamination of laboratory glassware, medical instruments and waste, reagents, and other media. Autoclaves can inactivate fungi, bacteria, spores, viruses and other microorganisms on surgical instruments such as scalpels, forceps, scissors and other metal items.
Why Autoclaving is Good for the Environment?
Because autoclaving sterilizes without the use of reagents and allows for the re-use of lab equipment and supplies, it is environmentally friendly. It can be used to sterilize medical waste before disposal, eliminating environmental concerns regarding incinerators.