Despite their effectiveness and worldwide presence, the meaning behind autoclave functions and uses still isn't known by all.
Autoclave: definition and meaning
An autoclave is essentially “an apparatus in which special conditions (such as high or low pressure or temperature) can be established for a variety of applications”. They are used in many industries for the main purpose of steam sterilization, which means removing every foreign material on the treated materials and equipment, including heat-resistant bacteria and spores.
This effectiveness makes them quite popular in a variety of areas, such as microbiology, tattoo and piercing parlors, but they are especially useful in the medical industry, such as prosthetics, hospitals, clinics, etc.
As for their origin, the very first autoclave was invented in the late 19th century by Charles Chamberland, a French microbiologist. Of course, these machines have gone through quite a few “updates” since then, but the reason for their birth is still the same as today: providing a more reliable and practical method of sterilization in the medical industry.
Autoclave functions and uses
The concept behind a more reliable form of sterilization relies on 3 main factors: high pressure, high temperature, and steam. With the way the most modern autoclaves are built, this concept can be put into practice with sterilization cycles that can be as fast as about 20 minutes, depending on the quantity of the load inside the machine.
An autoclave will first suck out all the air from inside its chamber, and then proceed to fill it with steam, which will gradually increase in both temperature and pressure. Air is one of the main obstacles of 100% reliable and fast sterilization, which is why there is a need for a vacuum. Simultaneously, by raising the pressure inside the closed chamber, an autoclave can raise the boiling point of water (and steam) over 100 degrees Celsius, allowing it to destroy all manners of foreign materials.
The most state of the art autoclaves also come equipped with special safety features that prevent them from being opened while the pressure and/or temperature is still too high inside. In other cases, this is definitely something to look out for, as staff could easily get burns from the burning hot steam inside.
What types of autoclaves are there?
There are many different kinds of categorizations you can find, depending on what autoclave manufacturer you find. The models you find will usually be differentiated by size, performance, or the type of load you can put inside, which can make certain models more suitable for certain medical facilities than others.
Still, in some cases (like the manufacturer mentioned in the source of this article), the only main difference will be size and capacity, which can make your choice much easier. Medium and large autoclaves can offer the same quality of steam sterilization, whether it’s for a hospital, a veterinary clinic, or a dialysis center, and are highly customizable the suit the specific needs of the medical facility in question!