Preparing growth media is a primary sterilization task in most biomedical and life science research settings. The very precise temperature and timing control permitted by a modern lab autoclave substantially simplifies the preparation of agar-containing and high-glucose-content media, as well as those containing sodium desoxycholate, bile salts, or other inhibitory agents and additions. The best lab autoclave controllers offer Delayed Start and Media Warming functions. Properly programmed and loaded, these lab sterilizers will process the latest batch of growth media before anyone has even arrived, substantially decreasing morning downtime. By the time lab staff unlock the doors and clock in, the growth media is sterile and ready to pour.
Lab Autoclaves for Growth Media Prep
Modern life sciences lab autoclaves spend the bulk of their time performing one of three tasks:
- Preparing growth medium
- Destroying used growth media and samples
- Sterilizing instruments and glassware
Although these are the same sorts of tasks undertaken by hospitals as a normal part of their operations, most medical-grade autoclaves are a terrible fit for learning institutions and life science research labs. Medical-grade autoclaves are optimized for constant 24/7 operation performing a few key tasks. This makes them expensive to purchase and operate, and difficult to adapt to new tasks. Lab autoclaves are built for efficient operation and programming flexibility.
Dry-Heat: The Worst Choice for Research Lab Autoclaves
For example, there are still many medical applications for dry-heat sterilizers–from hospitals and dental offices to tattoo and piercing parlors. But just because these units have enduring medical utility doesn’t mean they’re useful in biomedical research.
Dry-heat sterilization is virtually useless in a research lab. First and foremost, it cannot be used to prepare growth media–all of the fluid in the solution boils away during the long high-temperature hold period required for dry-heat sterilization.
Secondly, dry-heat is a frustrating method for destroying used samples and growth media. It’s perfectly effective–given time–but bakes the samples onto reusable glassware. A steam-based lab autoclave, on the other hand, renders the once-hazardous material into a sterilized goo easily dumped out and rinsed away.