Inception and development of Autoclave

The name comes from the Greek word ‘Auto‘ meaning self, and the Latin word ‘clavis‘ means a self-locking device.  

In 1879, Charles Chamberland developed the autoclave as a sterilization alternative to open flame techniques, although a precursor known as the steam digester was created by Denis Papin in 1679.

Finally, in 1933, the first pressure steam sterilizer was created, which controlled sterilizing performance by detecting the temperature within the chamber. With an improved version of the autoclave, several innovations have been developed over time, such as pre-vacuum cycles in 1958 and steam-flush pressure-pulse in 1987.

What is Autoclave

An autoclave, also known as a steam sterilizer, is a pressure chamber sterilization equipment that uses high pressures and temperatures to sterilize items. In general, it disinfects and sterilizes equipment in a range of medical, scientific, and industrial procedures and settings by combining pressure and temperature.

Autoclaves, which come in a range of sizes, are self-stealing steel tanks used in a number of businesses to perform sterilization or other scientific operations that need high pressure and high temperature. The autoclave is cylindrical in form because it can tolerate higher pressures better than a box or cube.

To eliminate hazardous bacteria, viruses, fungus, and spores, autoclaving is the most effective way of sterilizing lab equipment, particularly for liquid handling goods. The autoclaving method takes use of the fact that when water (or steam) is under high pressure, its boiling point rises. It is sterilized in an Autoclave, which uses high pressure and a recommended temperature of 250°F (121°C) for 15-20 minutes to sanitize the equipment. Several sectors, including medicine, dentistry, microbiology, and veterinary science, employ autoclaving or steam sterilization.

Main Components of Autoclave:-

  1. Heating Element
  2. Temperature Controller
  3. Pressure Sensor
  4. Chamber
  5. Door Gasket
  6. Solenoid Valve
  7. Water Level Sensor

What is Autoclaving

A vacuum pump eliminates all air from the chamber and replaces it with steam when the autoclave door is secured with a sealed chamber. Pressure is now added to the steam to accomplish the necessary sterilization for the specified period. When the cycle is over, the steam is drained and the lab equipment is gently removed from the chamber.

For more detailed explanation of the various phases of a sterilization cycle, please refer to the list and image shown below:

  1. Purge Phase: During the Purge Phase of the sterilization cycle, all air must be evacuated from the chamber. The autoclave machine’s vacuum system is designed to replace the air in the enclosed chamber with steam.
  2. Exposure (Sterilization) Phase: The sterilizer drain closes when the air is evacuated, and steam is constantly introduced into the chamber, resulting in an increase in pressure and temperature inside the chamber to the appropriate level. The cycle now moves on to the exposure phase, when the lab equipment is kept at the sterilizing temperature for the specified amount of time.
  3. Exhaust Phase: Finally, using an exhaust valve, pressure is expelled from the chamber and the internal pressure is returned to ambient.

Different types of Autoclave

Dental offices, private medical clinics, and other places employ table top autoclaves, which are about the size of a microwave oven. In hospitals, bigger horizontal autoclaves are commonly used to handle higher volumes of equipment. Other autoclaves are specifically developed for use in the pharmaceutical business, having CGMP rules in mind.

Role of Autoclave process in Pharma Industries

For the safety of lab personnel and to prevent cross-contamination between experiments, it is critical to maintaining numerous items in pharmaceuticals such as test tubes, pipettes, Petri dishes, needles, tubes, and containers free of germs, bacteria, fungus, and other dangerous pollutants. Spot sterilization or exterior washing may not be sufficient to ensure the sterility of the tools in some instances.

Before autoclaving, ensure that the liquid handling device to be placed in the autoclave is compatible for steam sterilization at the recommended temperature. For example some chemicals such as acids and bases should never be autoclaved, nor material made up of polyethylene, polyurethane or polystyrene.

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