Accelerated Aging

Heating items in an industrial autoclave allows quality control specialists to rapidly emulate the transformation of a building material or bottle of pills over the weeks and years. Although different industries give this “accelerated life-cycling testing” different names—consumer goods and construction materials are subjected to “accelerated durability studies” (sometimes called “destructive testing”), while drug companies put products through FDA-mandated “stability testing” that’s very similar to the “accelerated shelf-life testing” that canned and shelf-stable foods endure—the process still hinges on using heat to save time.

Industrial Autoclave Aging

The rate of many chemical reactions approximately doubles with each increase of 10 degrees Celsius—a fact all too familiar to parents of children who leave the milk carton out all day. For monolithic synthetic materials—such as closed-cell foams, plastics, or concrete—it’s easy to reliably double the aging rate. For natural materials like paper, a 10-degree increase can make aging occur hundreds of times faster. Steam-fed industrial sterilizers are a regular part of the industrial regimen used to determine the operational extremes and ultimate durability for everything from rubber dish gloves bound for aisle five to Kevlar vests bound for Afghanistan.

Meaningful accelerated life-cycle testing requires an industrial autoclave that can maintain an absolutely consistent temperature for long periods of time. This is especially the case in food and pharmaceutical stability testing, since these items are often subject to both prolonged heat and moisture—conditions easily emulated by any industrial autoclave with a quality computer-based control system.

The Right Industrial Autoclave for the Job

Unfortunately, most autoclaves sold in the United States are “medical-grade” units. These are optimized for hospital use, which makes them expensive, inconvenient, and highly inefficient for materials testing. For industrial applications, one really wants to seek out a well-designed “research-grade” autoclave. These offer significant energy and cost savings, as well as much greater cycle flexibility. For example, the Tactrol control units included in every Priorclave industrial sterilizer can easily run cycles of not just 0 to 120 minutes (standard medical cycles), or 0 to 999 minutes, but 0 to 999 hours. A military contractor can put a sample of his new ballistic barrier in an industrial autoclave, push a single button, and walk away. Every month his sample spends in the autoclave is the equivalent of a year spent in a field outside Jalalabad.

And if 999 hours isn’t quite long enough? You’re in luck; Priorclave’s Tactrol controller offers “Automatic Cycle Repeat.” It’s hard to imagine the application, but at the push of a button a quality control engineer with a Priorclave industrial autoclave could initiate a 999-hour cycle that would repeat 999 times—bringing him just a hair’s breadth from 114 unbroken years of heat and pressure, or the equivalent of 1300 years spent sitting at the back of a bathroom cupboard.