Story of India’s first oxygen concentrator!
You must have seen trucks and minivans carrying five-feet long oxygen cylinders to the hospitals or when you have visited a hospital to see someone. We all know that oxygen is the life-line of human existence, for patients it’s even more important because sometimes it is the difference-maker between life and death. Well, there is another way to get oxygen to the patients and that’s through Oxygen Concentrator. Oxygen Concentrator is a device that sucks in air from the environment, absorbs nitrogen, and gives pure oxygen(of 70-90% concentration). Sadly, no one in India manufactures Oxygen Concentrators. But, Never say Never!(At least to Indian Innovators).
Behind the Scenes
Indian Institute of Science(IISc) Bengaluru is one of the pioneer institutes in India in the field of science and technology. A team of researchers led by Prof. Praveen C Ramamurthy of the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering of IISc designed the prototype of Oxygen Generator in just a week’s time. As they say ‘necessity is the mother of any invention’, the story isn’t any different in the case of the development of this Oxygen Generator.
In the month of March when COVID-19 announced itself as a global tragedy, it became conspicuous to Prof. Ramamurthy, Dr. Arun Rao, and Bhaskar K, the team of scientists who work on sensors and electronic applications at IISc, that due to the ongoing supply chain disruptions there will be an abject scarcity of oxygen cylinders for patients in the hospitals. There was a need for Innovation and the scientist delivered an Indigenous Oxygen Generator which could change the game for the Indian oxygen concentrator market.
Why are Oxygen generators necessary?
The air around us is 78.09 percent nitrogen and 20.95 percent oxygen which means if we want to collect pure or near-pure oxygen then we must remove nitrogen from the air. Oxygen concentrators are machines that do this job. It produces oxygen-concentrated air by sucking atmospheric air into the canisters and removing nitrogen from it.
Oxygen generators have Zeolite beds in it, the Zeolites are is a widely available and low-cost volcanic mineral that act as an absorbent material for nitrogen. The compressed air is passed through sieve beds of Zeolite, it adsorbs the gas and we get the concentrated oxygen. To make the device portable and low-cost, the team used water purifier cartridges as the canister which contains the Zeolite bed. The size of the prototype is 15 cm long with a concentrated output of 70 percent oxygen. Although, there are commercial oxygen generators with a 90 percent concentration level.
The cost of the device is less than Rs. 15000 which is well below the cost of other oxygen concentrators available in the market. The price of each unit costs anywhere from Rs 40,000 to Rs 1 Lakh. The team believes that the price of the device will be between Rs. 10000 to 20000. The global market size of oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators touched US$ 2.9 billion in 2018. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.2 percent during 2019-2024.
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) is India’s public sector power equipment manufacturer. The company has come forward and shown interest in manufacturing oxygen generators with design and support from the team of Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.