An autoclave is a machine that is used to eradicate biohazardous waste from the surface of tools or instruments. It was invented by Charles Chamberland in 1884. Autoclaves sterilize or disinfect through physical means by using pressure, temperature and steam. They are often referred to as steam sterilization machines.
How does it work?
As mentioned, an autoclave is tantamount to a pressure cooker. The difference is that autoclaves are much more severe in their action.
The instruments to be sterilized are stored in a chamber in the belly of the autoclave. As soon as the autoclave is switched on, a dense cloud of steam is fed into the chamber. At that point, the pressure and temperature begin to increase. Generally, most autoclaves aspire to maintain a temperature of around 120 °C (about 250 °F).
The procedure can be executed in two ways, formally known as autoclave “cycles”.
Gravity or fast exhaust
in which the chamber endures high pressure and temperature for a particular period of time; at the end of this period, the valve is opened and the chamber swiftly returns to atmospheric pressure. This method is used to clean dry goods or glassware.
Liquid or slow exhaust
The cycle prevents a sterilized liquid from boiling. The steam is exhausted slowly at the end of the cycle, gradually cooling the superheated liquid. The cycle is primarily used for liquids, as the name suggests, but it can also be used for certain other materials.