Autoclave

Autoclave: Functions and How to Use It

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Autoclave is a laboratory tool used to sterilize laboratory equipment after use. Do any of you often use an autoclave? In this article, we will discuss a laboratory tool called an autoclave.

The discussion about this tool will be quite long and complete. Starting fromthe notion autoclave, history autoclave, recommendation autoclave for your laboratory, the function of the autoclave, the working principle of the autoclave, using the autoclave.

Hopefully it can help you understand the autoclave tool. For those of you who are more expert and have more knowledge about this tool, please comment below. Let’s continue reading!

As initial information for you, this article will contain many things related to autoclaves. Some of you may have many questions related to this tool, such as:
  1. What is an autoclave?
  2. What is the function of an autoclave?
  3. How to use the autoclave?
  4. What are autoclaves made of?
  5. Can the sterilization temperature be lowered?

Hopefully this article can help you understand the tool. Let’s continue to discuss one by one.

Definition of Autoclave

Autoclave is a laboratory tool used to sterilize laboratory equipment after use . Why do laboratory equipment need to be sterilized? The answer is because the tool can still be reused, not a disposable type and throw it away. Sterilization itself is a process carried out to kill or eliminate microorganisms, viruses, bacteria, spores, and fungi and their spores in laboratory equipment or other media (both solid and liquid). The sterilization process itself has many types, such as: filtration, heating, sound energy and irradiation.

The sterilization process using an autoclave can be said to be one of the best because it uses a heating process with a temperature that is made periodically in a certain time unit.

In an easy-to-understand case like this: suppose there is a hospital that will perform appendicitis surgery on 5 patients at the same time. Every tool that will be used to dissect the patient, be it scissors, knife or tweezers (etc) must be sterile.

If the hospital only has 2 sets of surgical equipment, then before being used for the next patient, the equipment must be washed and sterilized. Now this sterilization process needs to be done using an autoclave. How long does this sterilization process take, of course, each autoclave has a different time period. If the sterilization process using an autoclave takes 60 minutes, then at least the time span between one patient and another is 1 hour.

different type of autoclave
different type of autoclave

You may also have read some understanding of autoclaves , using the google search engine.

Wikipedia Quotes About the Definition of an Autoclave

An autoclave is a pressure chamber used to carry out industrial and scientific processes requiring elevated temperature and pressure in relation to ambient. Autoclaves are used in medical applications to perform sterilization and in the chemical industry to cure coatings and vulcanize rubber and for hydrothermal synthesis. Industrial autoclaves are used in industrial applications, especially in the manufacturing of composites.

From the definition of autoclave above, we can conclude, it turns out that autoclaves have different types and categories. In its current development, autoclaves are used in industry, medicine and research.

History of the Autoclave in the Laboratory

In the historical process of autoclave discovery, the author did not find a source that did explain in detail, but there are 2 names associated with the formation of the autoclave, namely:

  • Denis papin
  • Charles Chamberland

Denis papin

A man of French nationality, he was born around August 1647 and died in August 1713. Denis Papin is a physicist and mathematician, he has connections with several inventions such as the steam digester, pressure cooker and steam engine. And of course we need to know autoclave has another name steam sterilizer.

Charles Chamberland

Is a man of French nationality as well, born around March 1851 and died around May 1908. He was a microbiologist at the Jura Department. Charles did the development of a filter, which is often known as the Chamberland filter. Charles made use of porcelain rods which had smaller pores than bacteria. So that when the liquid is passed through the filter, all bacteria are captured and the liquid is free from bacteria. Charles Chamberland rose to fame when he started the research project that led to the invention of the autoclave in 1879.

From some of this information, you will understand how the relationship between the two people above relates to the process of forming the method in the autoclave. Denis Papin will deal with pressure on the autoclave , and Charles Chamberland will deal with bacterial sterilization.

Understand the working principle of the autoclave and find a common thread from its relationship with the tools invented by the two people above.

Autoclave Function

sterilization using autoclave

What is the function of the autoclave? Maybe that’s the question that’s on the reader’s mind right now. Autoclave function in general is for sterilization, as for any object being sterilized there are several types, such as:

  • Medical equipment (medicine)
  • Laboratory equipment (research)
  • Liquid and solid media

Sterilization using an autoclave takes advantage of the heat in the water which is converted into water vapor. Some laboratory equipment allows the sterilization process using an autoclave, but some other equipment requires a sterilization process using a different method, such as an ultrasonic cleaner.

The function of the autoclave in the medical or medical field is of course still within the scope of sterilization. Some surgical tools or medical procedures commonly used include: surgical scissors, tweezers or a scalpel. Now some of these tools are included in the category of tools that need to be sterilized using an autoclave.

In the process of handling medical waste, the function of the autoclave also has an important role. For example: before medical waste is disposed of, there will be a sterilization process using an autoclave . This sterilization process is categorized as quite effective or alternative when compared to burning the waste and has an impact on the environment.

In the field of microbiology, the function of the autoclave also plays an important role. For example, in the microbial culture process, media is needed, both liquid media, semi-solid media and solid media. Well, it’s not only sterilization at the beginning before use, after microbial observation, it is better to sterilize it before the media is disposed of as waste.

Autoclave Working Principle

Autoclave Working Principle
Autoclave Working Principle

After knowing the function of the autoclave in the previous point, now we discuss the working principle of the autoclave. The working principle of the autoclave is actually very simple, which is to convert electrical energy into heat energy. Thermal energy is channeled into the water, the water boils and produces water vapor, the water vapor collects and increases the pressure. Air is pushed out and the temperature is continuously increased and controlled as needed. The heat from boiling water vapor and high pressure will be controlled at a certain time so that it can kill microbes at a temperature of 100 to 134°C

In a very simple case, the autoclave is like a rice steamer in the kitchen. Used to steam or heat rice. The difference is that the rice steamer uses fire as heat energy, while the laboratory autoclave uses electrical energy. Some types of autoclaves that are quite outdated may still use the stove as heating media.

Back to the electric type autoclave with automatic mode. oh, yes… previously there were many types of autoclaves. such as manual, automatic, benchtop or even large capacity autoclaves.

In the relationship between autoclave  and sterilization, there are several things that need to be considered, such as:

  • Temperature or temperature has units of degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit
  • Pressure or pressure has units of bar
  • The length of time for sterilization is in minutes
  • The drying time has units of minutes

Several types of laboratory autoclaves are no longer manual, but automatic. Automatic here refers to the cycle process according to user needs. You need to know that if the autoclave has various features, one of the features you need to know is: the different treatment for each object to be sterilized.

How to Use a Laboratory Autoclave

How to use the correct autoclave?  maybe that is the question that is on your mind. In the following, the author provides a brief overview of how to use a laboratory autoclave correctly.

If you have never used an autoclave in the laboratory before and this is your first time using an autoclave, try looking for work instructions or manuals for using an autoclave in the laboratory or a user manual that is always available when buying an autoclave. Because, each autoclave usually has a different use procedure. for example manual type autoclave and automatic type autoclave. Be sure to ask senior users if necessary.

The following are step-by-step tips on how to use a common autoclave.

  • Enter the amount of water according to the volume needed, if there is an indicator indicator on the water reservoir, it can be used as an ideal benchmark, because each autoclave requires a different water supply.
  • If your type of autoclave includes a sophisticated type of autoclave so that the indicator will only be visible when there is an electricity supply (already connected), you must first connect the electricity and turn on the power button.
  • Place the liquid media, or solid media or laboratory equipment to be sterilized in the autoclave. Make sure you arrange them neatly, if there are shelves to arrange them as neatly as possible, use them.
  • Close the autoclave properly and tightly, then check the safety clamp again before carrying out the sterilization process. If the safety clamp on your autoclave is a swivel nut, make sure it is tightly closed. If your safety clamp is a swivel or sliding lever, make sure it’s tightly closed as well.
  • Setting the time and temperature on the autoclave as needed, then press the start button. In the automatic autoclave type, you will need a cycle selection process to determine which cycle is the most appropriate for the product you are going to sterilize.
  • After the sterilization process ends and the temperature cools down, you can only move the product out of the autoclave.
  • Empty the autoclave of sterilized product after each use. If it is not used for a long time, it is recommended to empty the water in the reservoir, disconnecting the autoclave from the power source.

Here are tips on how to use an autoclave in general. For those of you who buy a new autoclave, it is expected to read the manual for using the autoclave which is available on the completeness of the purchase document.


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Engineering Student of Airlangga University in Indonesia. Love to share knowledge