Oxygen concentrators are an essential part of the medical systems. For uninterrupted supply of oxygen to people having acute medical conditions or post-operation units, oxygen concentrators are necessary. The earlier systems which were in use to provide an artificial supply of medical oxygen were too bulky, noisy, and of high cost and maintenance. These systems had huge electrical and mechanical components and this made it very dangerous to use without supervision. The introduction of molecular sieves into the medical industry has brought a solution for these concerns by developing portable adsorption based oxygen concentrators.
Working of Oxygen Concentrators:
Oxygen concentrators, also known as oxygen generators, work on the principle of pressure swing adsorption. The adsorbent used here is zeolite 3A sieve powder and the adsorbate is mainly nitrogen gas.
Ambient air is collected at the entrance of the concentrator system. This air contains all impurities from the atmosphere along with gases like oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and water molecules as moisture. Out of all these gases, nitrogen is present in adequate quantity and needs to be removed before supplying the air to anyone suffering from an acute medical condition. The collected ambient air is compressed initially and passed over multiple sieve beds. The molecular sieve beds or columns adsorbs the nitrogen gas along with some parts of other impurities and leaves out the purer oxygen rich air to be collected at a pressurized tank. A part of this air is left to flow back to the molecular sieves to purge them and enable regeneration. The patient’s need is sufficed by the collected purer form of air with more oxygen.
Role of Zeolite3A sieve beds in the oxygen concentrators:
Zeolite 3A powder is the raw material for activated molecular 3A sieve and is an alkali aluminosilicate form. It can generally adsorb any molecules with a diameter of less than 3A. These are immediately available and work based on adsorption.
Adsorption is a process of surface absorption with no chemical reactions involved. This makes it a safer reaction with no heat emitted and no residual products. It also is the most efficient mechanism as desiccants and filters. The adsorbents, molecules with pores on the surface, usually adsorb molecules of diameter lesser than the pore diameter. The trapped molecules can be removed from the adsorbent surface by the process of regeneration.
The Zeolite3A powder is used as the adsorbent in oxygen concentrators. A sieve bed or column is set for selective adsorption of nitrogen gas from the ambient air and to produce air enriched with 93-95% parts pure oxygen. The excessive moisture content is adsorbed along with nitrogen as these sieves functions as a desiccant as well. It also removes considerable amounts of other harmful gases and atmospheric impurities from the air that flows over. The affinity of the zeolite sieves towards nitrogen gas and other molecules of air is high compared to its affinity towards oxygen. Thus the oxygen molecules are left behind to flow out of the system.
An oxygen concentrator is an essential unit in the lives of people with acute medical conditions and chronic diseases and to some patients in post-operative units or intensive care units. The risks and disadvantages involved in the earlier mechanisms of oxygen concentrators were solved easily with this molecular sieve adsorption technique.
Benefits of zeolite 3A powered oxygen concentrators over traditional oxygen concentrators:
Standalone/ Portable: Zeolite beds allowed the transformation of oxygen concentrators from the centralized heavy units to portable, fewer weight systems. This allows it to be used from home or any desirable location by the user.
Safe and secure: The oxygen concentrators were made safe with a demand-driven supply system. That is, they assure proper and sufficient oxygen supply to the patient. Also, there are no moving/mechanical parts and no complicated electrical circuits involved.
Reliable: Constant supply of oxygen-rich air is a guarantee with the zeolite oxygen generators as the only requirement other than the system is ambient air.
Economic: The entire system cost is considerably reduced by the use of molecular sieve for oxygen generators. It is now available at affordable rates for the needy.
Flexible: Customised supply solution is another advantage of this type of oxygen concentrators. The electronic panels provided are easy to use and involves an interactive user interface.
The use of molecular sieve for oxygen concentrator replaced earlier centralized systems of heavy electric and mechanical parts that involved noise, frequent maintenance, higher cost, and immobile access.