Autoclaves are mainly used in microbiology and in the medical sector as part of the basic equipment in laboratories. They are used for steam sterilization under pressure at temperatures above 100° C. Products are sterilized by eliminating all kinds of bacteria, germs and pathogens under these conditions.

An autoclave basically consists of a pressure vessel, usually made of stainless steel, with a door that seals tightly against rated pressure. The product to be autoclaved is placed in the sterilization chamber. The steam inside is heated by the integrated heating elements. All important parameters such as temperature and pressure can be monitored during the entire process through a digital control unit.

Autoclaving is divided in four steps:

> Purge phase (removing air in the chamber)

> Exposure phase (raising interior temperature and pressure)

> Sterilization phase

> Cooling down phase (releasing steam and pressure and cooling)

In the purge phase, steam flows through the sterilizer to displace the air. Temperature and pressure is ramped slightly to a continuous flow purge. In the sterilization phase, the product is then exposed to steam for approx. 15 to 20 minutes. The duration of the sterilization phase can varies according to the bacterial contamination and the sterilization temperature. At the end, the steam is released and the product cools down.

Autoclaving is commonly used for sterilizing solids, liquids and waste in destruction bags. Examples of autoclave-compatible materials are empty glass bottles or pipettes, as well as solutions and filters.