A Guide to Sterilising Equipment: How Autoclaves Work [BLOG POST]

How Do Autoclaves Work?

Posted by MES Australia on

how-autoclaves-work

Autoclaves are used to clean and sterilise equipment in medical and lab settings. 

They are complex devices that require training to use and must also be properly maintained. 

Autoclaves don't look particularly impressive from the outside, but there's a lot going on with them and they are surprisingly complex. 

What Are the Parts and Functions of an Autoclave?

Autoclaves are used to heat treat/sterilise items using steam. 

They are designed to clean things such as beakers, surgical instruments, and anything else that must be kept perfectly clean for safety reasons. 

Steam is good for sterilising things because it gets very hot, moves rapidly in a confined space, and is able to reach areas that a sponge or brush would not. 

It may be OK to rinse and wipe glasses that are used to serve drinks at a bar, but a beaker for a science experiment that requires complete purity must be cleaned to more exact standards, and that is exactly what an autoclave does. 

In terms of construction, autoclaves are relatively simple. 

They produce steam, and the temperature and pressure of the device are monitored using several sensors to ensure that it works properly. 

The inside of the autoclave is divided into several 'chambers' that contain the steam and allow it to move under pressure, around the devices that are to be treated.

Most autoclaves are cylindrical because the cylinder shape is good at supporting the pressure that is needed to make the autoclave work at its best. 

Autoclaves need to be quite thick and robust because they hold high pressure, very high-temperature steam. 

If it were to escape, the steam could cause serious burns to anyone near the device.

How an Autoclave Works

Autoclaves reach very high temperatures. The steam can be as hot as 270 degrees, sometimes higher. 

For this reason, it is important that the device has a thick wall and a door that will lock securely and not re-open until the sterilisation process is completed.

The main part of the autoclave is the chamber that the pieces to be cleaned are put into. 

There will be shelves on the chamber to allow pieces to be kept separated, and the steam should be able to flow freely through the chamber. 

Some bigger autoclaves have more than one chamber.

There is a water reservoir that is heated to produce the steam and a thermostatic trap that captures the steam as it condenses to flow out of the chamber. 

A safety valve controls the pressure in the system, and there is a wastewater system, and in some cases also a vacuum system to remove water. 

Autoclaves feature several thermostats and timer controls to ensure that the sterilisation process completes properly.

Autoclaves can use a few different mechanisms to clean items that are in them. 

Gravity and steam are at the core of how an autoclave works and are suitable for most forms of treatment. 

In some cases, vacuum pressure or liquids are used for cleaning, and in medical applications, some autoclaves use very high temperature 'flash' treatments to ensure that the items being treated are thoroughly sanitised. 

Flash cleaning is used only in highly specific scenarios, however, and requires the steam to reach temperatures that are far higher than those used in smaller laboratory autoclaves. 

It is important that any device used for flash sterilisation is properly calibrated and that the seals and locks are in good condition because an equipment malfunction with this kind of device could be incredibly dangerous. 

Flash sterilisation treatments can be dangerous if the autoclave seals are not sound or the temperature is not controlled correctly.

If you are searching for the best autoclave supplier in Australia, then look no further than Medical Equipment Services Australia

We were originally established in 1952 in order to provide electro-medical products to healthcare professionals across the country. 

The company (Medical Equipment Services) was acquired by Medical Equipment Australia in 2009. Since then, we have also expanded into the dental industry. 

For all your medical and dental supply requirements, please call us today on 1300 342 013 or buy your autoclave online today

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