Sterilization autoclaves are widely used in microbiology,medicine,podiatry,tattooing, body piercing, veterinary medicine, mycology, funeral homes, dentistry, and prosthetics fabrication. They vary in size and function depending on the media to be sterilized and are sometimes called retort in the chemical and food industries.
Typical loads include laboratory glassware, other equipment and waste, surgical instruments, and medical waste.
A notable recent and increasingly popular application of autoclaves is the pre-disposal treatment and sterilization of waste material, such as pathogenic hospital waste. Machines in this category largely operate under the same principles as conventional autoclaves in that they are able to neutralize potentially infectious agents by using pressurized steam and superheated water. A new generation of waste converters is capable of achieving the same effect without a pressure vessel to sterilize culture media, rubber material, gowns, dressings, gloves, etc. It is particularly useful for materials which cannot withstand the higher temperature of a hot air oven.
Other types of autoclave are used to grow crystals under high temperatures and pressures. Synthetic quartz crystals used in the electronic industry are grown in autoclaves. Packing of parachutes for specialist applications may be performed under vacuum in an autoclave, which allows the chutes to be warmed and inserted into the smallest volume.