Thermal masses are minimized to enable rapid heating and cooling.
Thermal spore exposure vessels (TSEVs) are laboratory containers designed for use in measuring rates of death or survival of microbial spores at elevated temperatures. A major consideration in the design of a TSEV is minimizing thermal mass in order to minimize heating and cooling times. This is necessary in order to minimize the number of microbes killed before and after exposure at the test temperature, so that the results of the test accurately reflect the effect of the test temperature.
A typical prototype TSEV (see figure) includes a flat-bottomed stainless-steel cylinder 4 in. (10.16 cm) long, 0.5 in. (1.27 cm) in diameter, having a wall thickness of 0.010±0.002 in. (0.254±0.051 mm). Microbial spores are deposited in the bottom of the cylinder, then the top of the cylinder is closed with a sterile rubber stopper. Hypodermic needles are used to puncture the rubber stopper to evacuate the inside of the cylinder or to purge the inside of the cylinder with a gas. In a typical application, the inside of the cylinder is purged with dry nitrogen prior to a test.
During a test, the lower portion of the cylinder is immersed in a silicone-oil bath that has been preheated to and maintained at the test temperature. Test temperatures up to 220 °C have been used. Because the spores are in direct contact with the thin cylinder wall, they quickly become heated to the test temperature.
This work was done by Robert A. Beaudet, Michael Kempf, and Larry Kirschner of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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