Heat generated by applying high temperature disrupts membranes and denatures nucleic acid and proteins, a process known as sterilization. The autoclave is a pressure sterilizer that completely destructs or removes all microorganisms that can contaminate objects. Examples of micro-organisms that can be destructed or removed using an autoclave are non-spore forming bacteria, spore-forming bacteria, protozoa, fungi and viruses (Yazici, Deniz and Baradan, 2013).
The pressure in an autoclave can influence the temperature and therefore the timing of the sterilization process. According to Yazici, Deniz and Baradan (2013), if steam is trapped and compressed, its temperature rises as the pressure increases. When pressure is exerted on a gas or vapor to keep it entrapped within an area, concentration of energy of the gaseous molecules occurs. This energy exerts similar amount of pressure against the opening force. Therefore, the temperature of steam rises sharply if the steam is trapped within a chamber and a high pressure is exerted. The autoclave uses the same principle for effectiveness of the sterilization process (Yazici, Deniz and Baradan, 2013).
In an autoclave, time and pressure are the two essential factors that influence heat sterilization. As far as pressure factor is concerned, it is the intensity of temperature that sterilizes in the autoclave as the pressure applied only helps to create the intensity. An autoclave is normally sealed to force steam or dry gas to accumulate. As steam rushes into the autoclave, the cool chamber is pushed forward and down via an air discharge line. Pressure continues to build as the more steam is forced into the chamber. Similarly, the temperature of the chamber rises as pressure continues to build up. The intensity of temperature influences timing that must also be measured based on the amount of load in the chamber (Yazici, Deniz and Baradan, 2013).
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