A method used to sterilize laboratory and medical equipment. Autoclaving kills all microorganisms present, including those that are resistant to the usual methods of disinfection such as alcohol. It is extremely efficient and reliable.
Objects that are typically autoclaved include:
Autoclaves come in two varieties: steam and chemical. Steam autoclaves are the most common. These use steam to sterilize objects, reaching a high temperature (121 C) and pressure (15 psi) to kill microorganisms. Chemical autoclaves, or chemiclaves, are an alternative piece of equipment. Like with steam autoclaves, chemiclaves use steam under high pressure and temperature. They also use alcohol and formaldehyde vapors for additional sterilization.
Objects such as bottles and bags that will be autoclaved should be loosely sealed. This allows the steam to enter and sterilize the area, as well as prevents bottles from exploding due to the change in pressure. Special kinds of tape are often attached to objects before autoclaving. The tape changes appearance to indicate that the autoclave reached the proper conditions for sterilization.
Most laboratory autoclaves are about three feet wide by five feet long, giving them the creepy appearance of cremators. Some institutions even have walk-in autoclaves used to sterilize large pieces of equipment.