Sterilization is the process where all biological matter is destroyed. It can be done through chemical or physical means. For instance, an autoclave uses steam to sterilize by high pressure. Infrared can also be used to kill microorganisms by using high temperatures for a few seconds. When it comes to using chemicals, hydrogen peroxide can be used to break down biological matter.
Sterilization can also be used to get rid of quasi-living biological agents like bacteria and viruses. Even though not everyone believes they are alive, failure to remove them might have deadly consequences to people especially patients and personnel. It is important to select the best sterilization technique that will do the job.
You should note that sterilization is different from disinfection. Disinfection is the removal of harmful biological agents while sterilization removes all biological agents. In health-critical situations, sterilization is required while disinfection is done in other domestic processes.
There are many ways you can carry out physical sterilization in the lab. You can use heat and pressure to remove the substances from equipment and instruments. The challenge with using this method is that some viruses are known to resist getting denatured by high temperatures. You will need to know how to adjust the temperatures to remove these compounds.
You can use ionizing radiation to sterilize by releasing electrons from molecules. Most transmissible agents need RNA and DNA for their propagation. The radiation will sever the nucleic acid link thereby reducing their transmission. The technique is effective for disinfection. However, some fungal spores and bacteria resist the radiation.
Another method is through the use of Ultra-Violet lamps. Ultra-violet rays are generated by the sun then filtered out by the atmosphere. Micro-organisms have no natural resistance, and this makes it one of the most efficient sterilization methods. You can use UV lamps but ensure you avoid getting exposed for long periods. The lamps need to be in direct sight with the object. Objects also need to be in proximity to the lamp.
You can also do chemical filtration of compounds. The method excludes biological compounds based on the particle size. It is good for disinfection but should be used with another sterilization technique for it to be effective.
You can use Ethylene Oxide to sterilize objects that are sensitive to radiation and high temperatures. It can be used to sterilize plastics, electronics, and optics since they are easily damaged by high temperatures making them unusable after sterilization. The chemical is commonly used to sterilize medical equipment that is durable and endoscopes. The chemical makes it impossible for micro-organisms to reproduce and produces good results. However, it should be noted that the chemical is a known carcinogen and can present a dangerous risk in the lab if not handled well.
Hydrogen Peroxide Vapor can also be used in sterilization. It can be used to remove biological matter and agents from furniture surfaces and other areas that are difficult to sterilize. The vapor will penetrate the desired area and can be used to sterilize pass-through chambers and other hospital devices. However, you should avoid overexposure since it breaks down living tissue as well.
Most of these methods are used together to establish a more lasting sterilization protocol in the lab. You need to ensure you use the right method so that all the biological matter can be eliminated completely.