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What is an autoclave used for?

An autoclave is a sealable vessel in which materials can be thermally treated under high pressure. One of the main applications of an autoclave is the sterilization of laboratory equipment. The high temperatures and pressures safely and reliably inactivate bacteria and germs.

Other uses include curing materials, performing chemical reactions that must take place under high pressures, or use in materials testing, for example, to analyze pressure resistance.

How a laboratory autoclave works

A laboratory autoclave is primarily a vessel that can be hermetically sealed and in which high gas pressures are permitted inside. Due to the high pressures and the complex reaction process, autoclaves are only to be operated by trained specialists after appropriate instruction. The materials to be treated are placed inside and the autoclave is closed.

The air still in the interior must then be able to escape through an outlet valve or be specifically removed and replaced by the desired gas or steam. Since most applications are performed at high temperatures, the autoclave is then brought to the desired temperature and held at that temperature for the duration of the reaction or application.

When finished, the autoclave is cooled down and the pressure is relieved. Only when the pressure and temperature have dropped sufficiently can the autoclave be opened.

Autoclaving: What procedures are available?

To ensure optimal and reliable use, various methods of autoclaving can be used. The appropriate forms depend mainly on the type of material to be autoclaved.

Autoclave class B

The B class process is also known as the vacuum process. In a class B autoclave, the air contained inside is removed in stages. In this process, the autoclave is first evacuated in multiple changes and then steam is allowed to flow in. This process is also known as fractionated prevacuum. In addition to solids, this option is particularly suitable for porous materials and hollow bodies. However, it should not be used for liquids.

Class S autoclave

The Class S autoclave operates by the flow or gravity method. Here, the water vapor displaces the air present in the autoclave. This escapes through a corresponding valve – a process quite analogous to that of a pressure cooker. This method can be used for liquids and solids, but should be avoided for porous materials and hollow bodies.

The right autoclave for your work area – criteria for selection

Autoclaves differ in various characteristics according to their field of application, including size and volume, orientation of the chamber and loading opening, installation conditions, material properties, as well as power and permitted pressure. Some aspects are briefly explained below.

Chamber volume

Laboratory autoclaves differ in their chamber size and volume. Here, the selection depends on the size and number of objects to be used. For smaller quantities and devices, such as those that occur in a practice, 20-50 liters are typically sufficient. If larger quantities of bottles or other equipment need to be sterilized frequently, autoclaves in sizes up to 200 liters are also suitable. On an industrial scale, up to 2000 liters are not uncommon.

Autoclave orientation

A distinction is made between vertical and horizontal autoclaves. Vertical autoclaves are characterized by a low footprint and a large room height. Many vertical autoclaves can be loaded from above, which further reduces the space required. Horizontal autoclaves can be loaded from the front. Front-loaders have low heights, and many smaller units are tabletop. However, they require more floor space than vertical top loaders because additional space is needed to open the door.

Laboratory autoclaves from MedSolut: manufacturer and quality features

At you can get laboratory autoclaves from different brand manufacturers. The best known are Fedegari, SHP Steriltechnik AG, SanoClav and CertoClav.


  • Fedegari is the world leader in sterilization solutions. Fedegari’s compact autoclaves offer the highest level of safety, modern design, easy operation and high process reliability.
  • SanoClav offers mainly vertical top loaders made of stainless steel, which are equipped with thermometer, pressure gauge and all appropriate safety valves. The control can be manual or fully electronic.
  • CertoClav has been in the business of autoclave manufacturing since 1957. The benchtop autoclaves for a wide range of applications all meet the CE requirements for laboratory equipment.
  • SHP Steriltechnik AG specializes in steam sterilization. Their autoclaves cover a wide range of chamber sizes from 25 l to 195 l and can be set up as floor-standing or table-top units. Visually appealing autoclaves, high reliability and high quality standards make SHP Steriltechnik AG a company that has been established in the market for years.

Application areas of autoclaves

Autoclaves are required in numerous industrial and research areas. The requirements for function, size and handling differ, sometimes considerably, due to the different areas of application.

Autoclave for the laboratory

An autoclave in the laboratory is used, on the one hand, to sterilize all the equipment and instruments to be used. However, another application is to perform chemical experiments in which gases undergo a reaction under high pressures. Typical volumes for a laboratory autoclave range from 50 ml up to 150 l. For chemical reactions, these autoclaves may have a chemically resistant coating on the interior and must be able to withstand particularly high pressures of up to 150 bar.

Autoclave for industry

In industry, there are numerous possible uses for autoclaves. For industrial applications, the autoclave must be of an appropriate size and filling must be as simple as possible. The autoclaves used here are therefore typically horizontal cylinders with a length of up to several meters, which have two large, easy-to-operate openings.

Such an autoclave in industry is used, for example, in the building materials sector for curing stone and concrete. Another application is fiber composite production, for example in the aerospace industry or the production of safety glass.

Autoclave in medicine

In the medical environment, sterilization is the primary task. Instruments, equipment, but also other sterilized goods must be absolutely safely freed from germs in order to protect staff and patients. For this purpose, an autoclave in the medical environment must be checked regularly to ensure that it is functioning properly. The size of the autoclave depends on the amount of equipment to be sterilized and can vary significantly between a medical practice and a hospital, for example.

Autoclave in the dental practice

Autoclaves can also provide valuable services in dental offices. An autoclave at the dentist’s office is used for reliable sterilization of dental handpieces, drills and other dental used devices and instruments. For this purpose, there are, for example, small table-top devices that find their place in every dental practice in a practical and convenient manner and thus make their contribution to safety.

Reliable laboratory autoclave for your application – get personal advice now

If you are looking for a laboratory autoclave for your laboratory, your practice or your specific application, our experts will be happy to support you. Contact us – our specialized consultants will personally and competently go through all aspects to be considered with you. You can reach us by phone at +49 30 2096579 00 or via e-mail at [email protected].