The temperature of high-pressure autoclaves is typically set at 120 degrees Celsius (°C) because this temperature effectively inactivates the majority of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores.
- Microbial Inactivation: Setting the autoclave temperature to 120°C is based on research and practical experience, which demonstrates that this temperature effectively kills the majority of microorganisms. At 120°C, the biochemical reactions in bacteria accelerate, leading to the destruction of critical components such as proteins, nucleic acids, and cell membranes, rendering the bacteria unable to survive and reproduce. Additionally, a temperature of 120°C is also effective in killing viruses, fungi, and spores.
- Rapid Inactivation: Higher temperatures expedite the sterilization process. Setting the temperature to 120°C accelerates the sterilization cycle, enhancing efficiency and productivity. This is particularly important for applications that require frequent sterilization, such as healthcare and laboratory research.
- Safety and Reliability: Setting the temperature to 120°C ensures the safety and reliability of the sterilization process. This temperature is sufficiently high to effectively kill the majority of pathogens, reducing the risk of infection. Furthermore, autoclaves are designed and tested rigorously to ensure stability and safety under high temperature and pressure conditions.
- Compatibility with Items: When selecting the sterilization temperature, consideration is given to the tolerance of the items being sterilized. Setting the temperature to 120°C accommodates most common items and equipment, allowing them to withstand high temperature and pressure treatment. However, for heat-sensitive items, lower temperatures or alternative sterilization methods may be required to prevent damage.