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Why 121°C? and Other Burning Autoclave Questions

Why 121°C? and Other Burning Autoclave Questions

If you’re relatively new to the world of autoclaving (a.k.a. steam sterilization), you might have some basic questions about how lab autoclaves work to sterilize things like glassware and culture media.

Fundamental Questions About Autoclaves

  • Why is the required temperature typically 121 degrees Celsius (121°C)? What’s so special about that temperature for autoclaving lab media?
  • How does the autoclave temperature get up to 121°C? — doesn’t water simply boil at 100°C?
  • Why can’t I use other techniques to sterilize my lab materials, such as bleach, microwaving, or incineration?
  • What happens to all those microbes when I autoclave them?


These are great questions as you look to start up a lab. In this article, we’ll give you the answers. We’ll explain why 121°C is a “magic” temperature for your autoclaving needs, and a lot more.


Killing Pesky Lab Contaminants with Autoclaves

The common thread among all these questions is the fact that contaminated materials—such as glassware, Petri dishes, depleted agar, gloves, pipette tips, bioreactors, and more—get contaminated with living things.

We’re talking about bacteria, fungi, and viruses. When you’re, say, breeding a yeast to develop a new variety of beer, you want that yeast to thrive. But you don’t want bacteria invading your bioreactor. (We wrote an entire blog about autoclaving for brewery labs. Check it out here.)

In other words, your job, to put it bluntly, is to kill things. Sterilization, in this context, means efficiently and decisively killing those microscopic creatures that would otherwise contaminate your lab materials. You want these critters to be “inactivated.”

Technically speaking, you want to use the high heat from the lab autoclave to denature the protein and inhibit its ability to perform an enzymatic reaction. Think of the heat as “melting” the protein. Once the microbes are dead/inactivated, they’re basically harmless. You’re then free to safely dispose of or reuse the materials they’d once inhabited.


The Magic Sterilization Temperature in Labs

For most lab applications using autoclaves, the basic sterilization setting is “121°C for 20 minutes.” But where do these numbers come from? And how do you get to 121°C, if water boils at 100°C? Wouldn’t it just boil away to steam?

In your kitchen, yes. Inside an autoclave, no. The autoclave is sealed. So when the water inside it boils and turns to steam, it doesn’t simply vent into the air. It’s trapped inside, and as the temperature goes higher, it pushes ever more energetically, trying to get out. Thus, the pressure increases. (Specifically, Tomy SX-700 Lab Autoclave reaches 0.25 megapascals of pressure, while our SX-500 gets up to 0.263, at this temperature.)

With the rising pressure, this is how the temperature exceeds 100°C. One-hundred twenty-one degrees Celsius, by the way, isn’t so much a “magic” number as it is a “blanket” number. Just like “20 minutes,” it’s a good safe number that accommodates a wide range of commonly used lab media. However, there are outliers. To be sure, you can simply look up the autoclaving needs of your particular medium, and program the autoclave accordingly.


Working Under Pressure

The pressure that builds up as the steam exceeds boiling temperature isn’t just a random byproduct of the heating. It’s also essential to the autoclave’s function.

Think of it this way: Everything you place inside the autoclave has little recesses and cavities: whether it’s within the structure of a complex bioreactor or even the uneven surface of depleted agar. You want that extreme high heat to reach inside every single nook and cranny.

The high-pressure steam does that for you. It literally pushes its way into every available void—killing every exposed microorganism.

This process is efficient. And it’s fast. (Shameless plug: Tomy autoclaves feature a dual-fan design, so they cool down 42% faster than non-fan autoclaves, allowing you to increase your throughput that much more.)

And that’s why autoclaving is simply a safer and more effective option for sterilizing things. Do you want to destroy things by incinerating them? Would you trust bleach to get into those minuscule voids that only high-pressure steam can penetrate? Would you trust a microwave to reliably sterilize used media? No, no, and no.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us directly or leave a message in the comments below.
We’d be delighted to hear from you!

How To Sterilize Brewing Equipment

How To Sterilize Brewing Equipment

More than 8,800 breweries dot the American landscape, and with more popping up every day, the competition for both microbreweries and established commercial brewing companies continues to rise. Aspiring beer brewers aiming to start a brewery in the growing beer market require a well thought out, efficient workflow.

Those familiar with cleaning and sanitization processes in their small brewing methods will find more complexities in maintaining strict quality control when expanding brewing operations.

Efficient brewery sterilization methods can mean the difference in your great tasting, quality beer hitting the taps or shelves, and ending up in the hands of your customers, versus your microbrewery startup dream going down the drain with the rest of the skunked inventory.

Brewery Sterilizer vs. Brewery Sanitizer

Sterilization is the process by which all forms of life, particularly microorganisms, are killed. Some small operations can sufficiently sanitize their equipment to maintain good tasting beer. But at a higher level of beer brewing, sterilization provides the quality control needed to eliminate the microorganisms that will ruin your beer.

Removes dirt and debris from surfaces, typically in preparation for further disinfection.

Reduces brew contaminants to an “acceptable level”, enough that it shouldn’t affect the taste of the beer.

Eliminates or kills all bacterial spores in addition to fungi, bacteria, and viruses, for superior tasting beer.

For brewery operations, any equipment that comes in contact with your beer must be sanitized or sterilized.

Why Sterilize Brewing Equipment?

Sterilizing brewing equipment to maintain a bacteria-free environment helps to turn your good-tasting beer into high-quality, great-tasting beer.

Palatable Beer? Or Great Beer? When starting your beer brewing adventure, the focus may simply be on getting a palatable beer. But, beer quality quickly becomes a priority, and it doesn’t take long to pick up on the fact that microorganisms in beer production make a huge difference in the overall quality and freshness of your beer.


As a small-scale hobby brewer, you are probably getting by with sanitizing your beer-making equipment through household cleaning products, maybe your dishwasher, oven, or even your pressure cooker. All of those methods are typically an appropriate brew sanitization method to reduce the microbes, bacteria, fungi, and other contaminants to levels acceptable for hobby brewing. But for the ambitious beer-maker, researching how to start a brewery or start a microbrewery, this article may help you understand the need for beer sterilization equipment that helps you operate more efficiently, and produces better tasting beer.

Microorganisms in Beer Production

Without brewery sterilization methods, microbes, bacteria, germs and other beer contaminants affect the healthy environment of your yeast. Commercial brewers employ harvesting yeast from recent batches, but it is critical to remove contaminants when using your own yeast cultures to prevent contamination.

Microorganisms in beer production will adversely affect the taste of your brew.

You must remove microorganisms from anything coming into contact with the yeast/wort/beer throughout the brewing process in order to enjoy superior tasting beer.

Options for Sterilizing Equipment in a Brewery

Pressure Cooker: Pressure cookers are often used as inefficient, makeshift sterilizers in hobby brewing (and even in some of the early stages of microbreweries). But, paying someone to babysit a pressure cooker quickly becomes an inconvenience when beer becomes more than a casual hobby. At that time, you’ll want to consider upgrading from a small kitchen appliance to a product built specifically for sterilization. A product that can: 1) Accommodate larger loads to reduce time spent sterilizing, 2) Maintain sterility assurance levels, and 3) Perform safely throughout the workflow.


Pressure cookers work for small sterilization needs in breweries. It is not uncommon to have an employee actually “babysit” their pressure cooker while it completes a “sterilization” cycle.
But, to grow as a business, brewers recognize more scalable processes are needed. Processes that don’t take a paid employee away from doing more productive work – we know there is plenty of it to be done.

– TOMY brewing partner

Autoclave: Autoclaves use heat, pressure, and steam to sterilize brewing equipment. From John Palmer, author of ‘How to Brew: Everything you need to know to brew beer right the first time’, “because steam conducts heat more efficiently, the cycle time for such devices is much shorter than when using dry heat.” For most instruments in brewery settings, it will take 20 minutes at 121°C to kill contaminants.


Does My Brewery Need An Autoclave?

Much like laboratories, breweries have a complex workflow for developing new beers and establishing quality control and assurance. Through this quality control process in breweries, an autoclave is one piece of equipment that holds the key to optimization and efficiency through this process.

Pressure Cookers as an Entry-Level Brewery Sterilizer

In a start-up microbrewery, a pressure cooker can function as an entry-level sterilizer, but it is rarely efficient. Operating a start-up brewery with a pressure cooker to sterilize brewing equipment leaves a lot of room for improved efficiencies in the overall brewing process.

Autoclaves (steam sterilizers) are much more conducive to running a productive microbrewery, brewpub, brewing taproom, and even a regional brewery.

Each step in the beer brewing workflow takes time. And time is money.

Of course, there are many steps from harvesting hops to putting a cold beverage in the customer’s hands.

Beer Quality

While there are many causes of off-flavors in beer, this article ‘Off-Flavors in Beer: What They Are and How to Identify Them’ by Hop Culture does a good job explaining the reasoning behind each of the tastes you may encounter.

During the brewing process, there are many opportunities to expose your beer to bacteria that will affect the taste of your beer. These tastes, such as mustiness, vinegar, rottenness, go beyond the scope of personal taste and palate. Without removing the bacteria with a consistent cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilization process, you will experience not only off-flavors in your beer but also the impossibility of reproducing a taste of beer you enjoy!

Imagine, finally brewing a beer with the taste profile you’ve been searching for, the perfect blend of bitterness, hops, malty flavor, or a light, crispness with the perfect fruity note…. And then, because of the microorganisms lurking on your equipment, you can never create it again.

This scenario has plagued even commercial brewers, finding themselves with inconsistent tastes when bacteria affect the health of their yeast.

Proper Cleaning in Breweries – Maintaining proper cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilization processes in your brewing helps to:

  1. Avoid musty, rotten off-flavors in your beer,
  2. Eliminate dumping ruined batches and starting over, and
  3. Produce the same tasting beer again and again.

Remember, to avoid huge losses of time and overall productivity in your brewing, make sure to keep your beer equipment free from microbes and harmful bacteria. Clean and remove residue build-up from your equipment, such as yeast sediment and grime. The fermentor, naturally, is one of the most important pieces of brewing equipment to maintain a proper sterilization process.

But, don’t forget the other instruments that come into contact with your beer!

Instrument Sterilization – Spoons/stirrers, funnels, rods, paddles, fillers, airlocks, carboys, and bungs – properly preparing your equipment means all the hard work you put into brewing results in a pint of beer you’re proud to share with your friends and customers.

Investing In an Autoclave for Your Brewery

Investing in an autoclave for breweries is a workflow optimization question each beer brewer needs to answer.

From installation, to start up, and operation, the Tomy Autoclave is built for long-lasting cost savings. Made from the highest quality materials from the experts in autoclaves, Tomy Autoclaves are the workhorses of any lab. Minimize the downtime from inferior equipment – downtime that hurts your bottom line.
To ensure your Tomy Autoclave runs smoothly each and every time you use it, follow the maintenance plan described here.

Learn more about the pricing of Tomy Autoclaves on the Autoclaves page.


“Our first TOMY autoclave purchase was one of, if not the best investments we’ve made as a brewery.”

Even with an outstanding brewery staff, the challenges of workflow inefficiencies from not using a laboratory autoclave are likely wasting time and money. One of our brewing partners (a former microbrewery that’s now a part of the Miller Coors Family) states “our first TOMY autoclave purchase was one of, if not the best investments we’ve made as a brewery.” Even with national distribution channels, this brewmaster acknowledges the performance of their TOMY autoclave significantly improves their operations.

Managing Hurdles with Reliable Equipment
Equipment failure in breweries, like in any commercial business or research setting, is a substantial setback. Choosing an autoclave that is reliable, easy, and safe to operate, as well as maximizes the efficiency of your brewery operations, is key.

Tomy Autoclaves are safe and easy to use and aren’t really any more complex or difficult than running a dishwasher cycle at home – and they certainly don’t need babysitting.

Top-Loading Autoclaves for Breweries – Top-loading autoclaves accommodate large loads, particularly suited for sterilizing otherwise difficult media such as a fermenter/bioreactors. Low profile autoclaves like the top-loading Tomy Autoclave are ergonomic and easy to load, making autoclaving a breeze!

Simply put, brewing beer is not for the faint of heart – it takes guts, and a lot more. Navigating the brewing process – taking malt to mash, and dry hops to distribution – is no easy task. Brewing is a complex process that requires science, education, skill, and even a bit of finesse (the right equipment is also a huge bonus).

For details on operating a Tomy Autoclave for brewery sterilization needs:
Contact a Tomy Autoclave Specialist
Or ask a question in the comments below.

How Does an Autoclave Work?

How Does an Autoclave Work?

TOMY Lab Autoclave close-up

Walk into any laboratory around the world and you are almost certain to find an autoclave sterilizing lab media. Whether the lab is a small pharmaceutical startup, or a large university research facility, sterilizing laboratory media is crucial in carrying out complex scientific research.

Choosing the right autoclave for your laboratory can increase efficiency and lower lab operating costs – but today we look inside the autoclave sterilizer to see just how the sterilization process works. How autoclave sterilization works is a straightforward process; autoclaves operate under a set of scientific principles to carry out a job that is nothing less than critical.

3 Components Needed for an Autoclave to Sterilize

An autoclave is a common piece of laboratory equipment that works to sterilize lab media using three primary components: temperature (heat), pressure, and steam.

1) High Autoclave Temperatures

Precise autoclave temperatures are key in how an autoclave works to create steam and build pressure. The most typical chamber temperature for an autoclave is 121°C. Most commercially available autoclaves will achieve higher temperatures in the 130°-135°C range, including the TOMY Autoclave Sterilizer, which has a maximum temperature of 135°C. Autoclaves work by creating high autoclave temperatures and pressure that create steam to sterilize.

2) High Pressure Builds Up

Similar to a standard pressure cooker, laboratory autoclaves work by producing high pressure. In a food pressure cooker, the high pressure works to quickly cook food. In a laboratory autoclave, the pressure is used to generate enough steam to sterilize the microorganisms present on lab equipment. Inside a TOMY Autoclave, sterilization pressures range from 0.019 to 0.212 MPa.

3) Creates Steam that Sterilizes

The steam generated from the rise in chamber pressure and temperature comes in contact with the media inside, which is where the real autoclave sterilization process begins. The energy transferred from the heat destroys the microorganisms and breaks down cell walls/membranes – creating a sterile environment inside the chamber.

How long does an autoclave take to sterilize?

The easy answer here is it depends. The CDC states “The two common steam-sterilizing temperatures are 121°C (250°F) and 132°C (270°F)”, so it is easy to see the time necessary to sterilize a piece of media differs from object to object. 

Sterilization time depends on the material, its porosity, and whether it is in some type of sterile packaging or wrap. In most laboratory settings, 121°C for 20 minutes will kill contaminants, but please check the specifics for your media type. To sterilize larger pieces of lab media or large volumes of lab media, it will take longer.

TOMY Autoclaves are programmable to sterilize (at 105–135°C temperatures) for up to 10 hours. They are also programmable to heat (at 45–95°C temperatures) for up to 99 hours. A preset timer allows you to delay the start time by up to 99 hours, by setting your autoclave to sterilize at the most convenient time.

How Different Types of Autoclaves Work

There are two primary types of autoclave sterilizers – gravity displacement autoclaves and pre-vacuum autoclaves also called pre-vac for short. These two types of autoclaves move steam in different ways to sterilize the media inside the chamber, including glass, liquid media, and laboratory waste.

How Gravity Autoclaves Work

Gravity autoclaves are fairly basic in their sterilization process. Water at the bottom of the chamber is directly heated to create steam and pressure. This pressurized steam then forces the ambient air, previously in the chamber, out. Once the chamber volume is filled with steam, the autoclave is programmed to close the necessary valves, not allowing any more air to escape the chamber. The autoclave works by continuing to build the pressure and temperature until it reaches the desired settings. At this point, the cycle begins and the sterilization process is underway.

Source: http://www.frankshospitalworkshop.com/equipment/autoclaves_equipment.html
Note: TOMY SX model autoclaves are gravity displacement autoclaves with the chamber oriented vertically to maximize throughput. The image above pictures a horizontal chamber.

How Vacuum Autoclaves Work

Vacuum autoclaves are more complex in their design than gravity autoclaves and are not as commonly used in laboratories. Vacuum autoclaves work by using a vacuum pump that forces the ambient air out of the chamber, allowing steam to enter. This process is repeated several times until the chamber has been completely evacuated of ambient air and filled with steam. Because of the vacuum function “pulling” the ambient air out of the chamber, the steam is allowed to penetrate the media. For this reason, vacuum autoclaves are more suited for fabrics, wrapped items, and sterilization pouches.

Whether used in research, pharmaceutical, or a medical laboratory, it is important to choose the right type of autoclave for your purposes. Check out this video showing more information about the 2 primary types of autoclaves and how to choose the right autoclave for your lab.

For more information on how autoclaves work, contact our technical experts or leave us a message in the comments below.

What Can Be Autoclaved?

What Can Be Autoclaved?

What’s in your autoclave?

What do a pine tree, a bottle of beer, and a cannabis-based product have in common? 

Answer: They all have used Tomy autoclaves in their development.

That’s right. Our autoclaves are used for a lot more than Erlenmeyer flasks and Petri dishes. 

In this article, we’ll explore some of the common—and not-so-common—uses for steam sterilization, a.k.a. autoclaving. Here at Tomy, we’re proud that so many different organizations utilize our products. So we thought we’d give you a little “tour.” 

The usual suspects 

First, a little Autoclave 101. The autoclave combines four factors—heat, steam, pressure, and time—to sterilize what’s placed inside it. It’s the ideal solution for lots of media and is usually far more practical than options such as incineration. 

Laboratories live by autoclaves. Specifically, we’re talking about laboratories where anything, particularly anything microscopic, can grow. This means biochemical and biological research laboratories, as well as pharmaceutical research labs, and lots and lots of government and university labs. They’re all Tomy customers. 

So what are they autoclaving? 

Broadly, they’ll need to clean up used glass media, liquid media, and instruments. So this means lots of glassware (that is, Pyrex/borosilicate glass, as opposed to household glass, which shouldn’t be used), including flasks, beakers, and glass Petri dishes. 

Then there’s the culture media, biological cultures, and stocks. We can’t tell you how many contaminated solid items—such as pipette tips, gloves, and plastic Petri dishes—get autoclaved each day. “Contaminated” is the important word here since the autoclave can handle bacteria, viruses, and fungi with equal aplomb. 

One of the nice things about using glass for containing your culture media is that you can autoclave both of them together at the same time. Simply leave the culture in the glassware, and place it in the autoclave, like a single item. 

Other materials that are autoclave-friendly include, naturally, stainless steel and the proper plastics: polypropylene and polycarbonate. 

By the way, all of those flasks we’d mentioned have two things in common: 1) they’re round, and 2) they’re vertical. While that may seem pretty obvious, it’s something to keep in mind when shopping for an autoclave, because if it’s 1) rectangular or 2) horizontal, you’re going to regret that purchase every time you have a batch of flasks to sterilize. 

There are, of course, items that you should never autoclave. These include: 

  • Anything that’s flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic (including bleach), or radioactive. You don’t want to expose that to high heat and steam.
  • Paraffin-embedded tissue. 
  • Any liquid in a sealed container. To play it safe, you can fill a container about two-thirds full, and autoclave it with its cap loosened. 

The intriguing outliers 

At Tomy, we’re delighted to include among our clients’ organizations that are at the creative cutting edge of product development—and rely on our autoclaves to help them along. Specifically: 

  • One client sure can see the forest for the trees. That’s because they’re creating pine trees in the laboratory, for later transplanting in the desert, where it would be nearly impossible to get them to germinate from scratch. And so every used petri dish, and its depleted agar, go into the autoclave after the microscopic “crop” is “harvested.” (By the way, that’s not “autoclave,” but rather “autoclaves,” plural. This one lab uses seven in order to keep production flowing smoothly.) 
  • Product development is brewing for another Tomy autoclave client; they make beer. Actually, lots of startup breweries and microbreweries rely on our autoclaves for product development, for everything from lagers to IPAs. Beer, like bread, relies on yeast for a significant portion of its flavor profile. So, you need to cultivate that yeast and experiment with different stocks and strains, until you get it just right for that new product you’re developing. And whereas lots of the bio labs are using culture dishes to run their experiments, our friends in the bottled-beverage world have a firm reliance on bioreactors, those complex containers used to cultivate yeasts. We mention these because they’re the ultimate perfect fit for our SX series of autoclaves: tall and cylindrical. 
  • The cannabis industry is growing fast, and since cannabinoids are plant-based ingredients—whose applications span everything from beverages to skincare—it requires a lot of lab work, with sterilization after every development batch. Thus these cannabis companies have become a fast-growing sector of Tomy autoclave customers. 

This list is hardly exhaustive. We see autoclaves used in veterinary settings. We’ve even read about their use in creating pre-impregnated carbon-fiber components! 

Do you have a surprising or unusual usage for your autoclave? Write us and let us know; we may feature you in a future blog!

How to Sterilize and Dispose Plastic Agar Plates and Petri Dishes

How to Sterilize and Dispose Plastic Agar Plates and Petri Dishes

A Messy Affair: Sterilizing and Disposing Used Agar and Petri Dishes

Agar plates, otherwise known as Petri dishes, serve as an integral and irreplaceable part of microbiological research, particularly in their functional and utilitarian role in culturing bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms.

Though relatively easy to prepare and requiring a minimal amount of equipment to culture, clean-up and disposal can be a messy affair, requiring the user to undertake procedures to sterilize and minimize the risk of potentially harmful microorganisms contaminating both inside and outside the laboratory environment.

Standard protocol requires the use of autoclaves to sterilize agar plates, as only high heat and pressure can effectively kill the full range of microorganisms, which can persist even under unusually harsh conditions. Alternative agar plate sterilization methods not requiring the use of autoclave sterilizers, such as microwave ovens or caustic chemicals have been recommended in place of using autoclaves. However, these methods have been proven ineffective due to the resistance of certain microorganisms.

The method in which agar plates are placed in biowaste/biohazardous waste bags and sterilized in autoclaves has become the standard protocol at many laboratories. However, this method comes with downsides, as liquified agar mixed with biomaterial can easily leak and cause a large mess, within the laboratory or on its way to waste disposal areas and beyond.
When paired with the correct autoclaving accessories, the autoclave sterilization method for plastic agar plates/Petri dishes can be both effective in deactivating harmful microorganisms and preventing a large mess.

Please find below the following plastic petri-dish agar plate sterilization and disposal method using an autoclave sterilizer, broken down into a few easy steps.

  1. Collect Used Plates

Collect used petri dishes / culture plates with agar.  Cultured agar plates / petri dishes should be left as is with agar and covered to prevent the spread of microorganisms and reduce the risk of contamination.

2. Load Agar Plates / Petri Dishes

Load used culture plates in the plastic petri dish / agar plate sterilization basket, removing covers and placing them aside before loading the agar-filled portion in the specialized perforated basket. Place dish / plate covers on top of the agar-filled portions at the end.

3. Set Up Bucket and Stand

Set up the stand inside the specialized solid bucket and fill with water to prevent melted media from solidifying inside the bucket. The stand will be used to place the specialized perforated basket on top of the water to allow the melted media to fall through. Fill water to about half of the height of the stand.

4. Load Bucket with Stand

Place the water filled bucket inside of the autoclave. Next, place the perforated basket with disassembled plastic petri dishes / agar plates, resting the basket on the stand.

5. Run Cycle

Close autoclave and run a normal sterilization cycle for at least 20 minutes. Please note that the sterilization time differs with the amount of plastic petri dishes / agar plates.

6. Unload

After sterilization cycle is complete and the autoclave temperature has cooled down to a safe level, remove perforated basket. Even though the temperature is registered at a safe level, please be mindful of hot steam, liquids, and media.

7. The Chunk

Note that the plastic petri dishes / culture plates and lids have melted and re-forged into a large chunk.  Some of the agar material has been trapped / fused into the plastic, and though it should be sterile, avoid touching parts where agar is exposed to prevent a mess.  Most of the agar has melted and mixed with the water inside the bucket.

8. Throw Away- No Mess!

Dispose the plastic chunk and pour water into a biohazardous liquid receptacle or a drain where it can be safely disposed and eventually processed.  Safe, easy and no mess!


A Means to a Mess

​As you can see, petri dish sterilization can be done safely and easily with little mess, drastically reducing the risk of contamination.

If you are interested in the aforementioned agar sterilization accessories or the compatible TOMY SX-Series autoclaves, please fill out a contact form and one of our sales representatives will get back to you shortly.

Fast and Cost-Effective Autoclave Scale-Up for Antibody Production Research

Fast and Cost-Effective Autoclave Scale-Up for Antibody Production Research

Sourcing autoclaves to sterilize small bioreactors and fermentors can be challenging due to the configuration of and cost of most autoclaves

Sourcing autoclaves for bioreactor or fermentor sterilization can be challenging due to complex logistics and funding limitations, however, top-loading autoclaves’ can be an ideal solution for quickly increasing a research operation’s sterilization capacity.

The Promise of Recombinant Antibody Treatment

As a promising therapy against coronavirus and other viruses, there has been an increased focus on monoclonal antibody (mAbs)-based treatments and possibly preventative therapies.  This in turn has raised the demand for equipment necessary for antibody production research, as well as preemptively increasing demand for equipment used in full-scale production.

Though there are a plethora of antibody cloning methods, whether the host of choice is bacteria, yeast, or mammalian cells, etc., the preferred methods for scalability will involve the use of bioreactors or fermentors to maximize production levels and increase efficiency.  Anyone who has been involved in antibody cloning operations will also know that proper bioreactor and fermentor sterilization is key to preventing contamination and maintaining production levels.

Challenges in Increasing Sterilization Capacity

Autoclaving is the preferred method for bioreactor and fermentor sterilization due to the ability to effectively sterilize the entire contraption under highly pressurized steam.  However, increasing an operation’s autoclaving capacity in a short amount of time is not an easy task, both in terms of logistics and funding.  This is often due to the fact that autoclaves tend to be large and expensive pieces of equipment, which not coincidentally are also difficult and time-consuming to source, install, and maintain.  

Many laboratories, which are still in the early to intermediate research stage and unclear on the promise of mAbs-based therapeutic products may not be ready to make large-scale capital investments in industrial-scale autoclaves.  Due to the awkward configuration of most industrial autoclaves, those that are large enough to accommodate small to medium-size bioreactors and fermenters would require investments of tens of thousands of dollars, even to meet marginal throughput.  Fortunately, there are autoclaves that are designed to effectively accommodate smaller bioreactors and fermentors, while being inexpensive, compact, and easy to install.

Top-loading autoclaves and the vertical configuration of the chamber allows for efficient research-scale bioreactor and fermentor sterilization

Top-loading autoclaves' vertically aligned chambers are ideal for sterilizing bioreactors and fermentors

Top-loading autoclaves’ vertically-aligned chamber configuration provides the perfect solution for effectively and affordably scaling a bioreactor and fermentor sterilization operation.

Top-Loading Autoclaves for Bioreactors / Fermentor Sterilization

Top-loading type autoclaves are ideal for sterilizing bioreactors and fermentors typically found in research laboratories, due to the design, utility, and affordability of these types of autoclaves. 

Laboratories that have immediate demand to scale their operation may find the following features useful:




  • The vertical configuration of top-loading autoclaves makes loading/unloading of bioreactors and fermentors easy (and maintain vertical alignment during loading and sterilization cycle), especially compared to smaller front-loading autoclaves. Using a tall loading basket allows for easy handling of heavy bioreactor/fermentor cylinders, especially when the device is hot after a sterilization cycle.
  • The vertical configuration allows for bioreactors and fermentors to be sterilized with liquid culture media inside the cylinder. When used with a tall basket, liquids can be caught and prevented from entering the chamber water.
  • Top-loading autoclaves have a relatively small footprint for their capacity. TOMY SX-Series autoclaves have the smallest known footprint to chamber size ratio among top-loading autoclaves.
  • TOMY top-loading autoclaves require no installation (steam or exhaust connections) and simply need to be plugged in and filled with water.



  • Standard front-loading autoclaves large enough to accommodate bioreactors and fermenters are prohibitively expensive for smaller organizations and highly ineffective (in terms of price to loading capacity) for all organizations. Relatively speaking, top-loading autoclaves, such as TOMY SX-Series autoclaves are very affordable in high loading capacity for sterilization of bioreactors and fermenters.
  • Due to the simplicity of design, reliability, and low maintenance needs, top-loading autoclaves are more affordable in terms of long-term upkeep costs.


As illustrated, top-loading autoclaves can be both an effective and efficient means in bioreactor and fermentor sterilization, as well as quickly and cost-effectively scale-up antibody production research operations.

For pricing and questions concerning TOMY SX-Series autoclaves and compatibility of bioreactor/fermentor models, please use our contact form, email, or call us at 858-800-3900.

Tomy SX-Series Autoclave Sterilizer

Saves You Lots


Disclaimer: TOMY autoclaves for research use only.  Information contained in this blog entry is not meant to substitute proper research, execution, and maintenance of laboratory practices.  Please check the most up-to-date information on authoritative sources and adhere to applicable federal, state, and local regulations.