What is an autoclave machine?


Quick Answer

An autoclave machine is a device that sterilizes laboratory instruments, glassware and medical equipment by using highly pressurized saturated steam to effectively kill microorganisms. Biological hazards are also rendered inactive by an autoclave machine.

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Full Answer

Heat is generally used as an effective decontamination agent. One type of heat treatment is called moist heat treatment, which can be conducted through boiling or autoclaving. Boiling is considered less effective because some microbes, such as bacterial endospores, can withstand boiling temperatures. Autoclaving, which uses an autoclave chamber, completely destroys vegetative cells, inactivate viruses, protist cysts and endospores.

An autoclave machine is typically set-up using standard operating conditions. The material to be decontaminated is subjected for 15 minutes to a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit and 15 pounds per square inch of pressure. However, 10 minutes under these conditions normally kills all microbes. For maximum effect, the entire surface of the sterilized item must be exposed to the pressurized steam. An autoclave machine generates more than two times the amount of thermal energy compared to steaming alone.

Some materials are not suitable for autoclaving. Laboratory and medical discarded sharps, including needles and syringes, scalpels and microscopic slides should not be autoclaved. Dangerous chemicals, such as radioactive, combustible, corrosive and highly reactive substances, are also unsafe for autoclaving.

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