In these times of living alongside the COVID-19 virus, when the cleaning and sterilisation of materials and surfaces are activities of vital importance to minimise the threat of people infecting each other, there is an interesting application of ionising radiations that is also vitally important.
It has been known for many years now that ionising radiations cause the ionisation of the DNA of microorganisms, possibly affecting the process of cellular multiplication under certain conditions.
Radiosterilisation may be said to be a validated process for the destruction, inactivation or reduction of microorganisms in solid or liquid materials and it does not generate heat, for which reason it is widely used in different industries.
Nowadays, gamma radiation is the type of ionising radiation that is most widely used for this purpose, allowing for the sterilisation of materials as varied as foodstuffs, medicines, laboratory equipment, cosmetics, biomedical products such as blood and tissue, and healthcare materials such as containers, hypodermic syringes, gloves, prostheses, implants, clothing and surgical materials.
The Advantages of Ionising Radiations
Ionising radiations offer a series of advantages as a sterilising agent:
- Gamma radiation has an excellent material penetration capacity and easily reaches all parts of the object to be sterilised.
- Given the sterilisation dose normally applied, radiations do not cause any significant increase in temperature. This makes it possible to sterilise thermosensitive materials, such as for example plastics.
- The sterilising effect of radiations is easy to control instantly and simultaneously in all the products to be sterilised.
This technology requires specific installations for radiosterilisation offering a high degree of safety. These facilities are not currently portable and the process has to be carried out by specialist professionals.
Radiosterilisation is performed automatically in order to prevent the risk of exposure of the personnel operating the steriliser. It is necessary to ensure that the radiation dose administered to the material to be sterilised is sufficiently high as to eliminate whatever microorganisms it might contain. Once the energy of the radiation to be emitted has been established, it is necessary only to control the exposure time.
Sterilisation of materials by means of ionisation
In short, given the ionising action of radiation, the use of gamma emitters allows for the sterilisation of various materials, offering important advantages compared to sterilisation by heat or by chemical products.
The effectiveness and competitiveness of the method provide an option that is more efficient than traditional methods and this is giving rise to the major development of industrial irradiation facilities across the world.