Oxygen generators separate oxygen from air so that the gas can be fed into industrial processes in real-time or stored in pressure tanks. Oxygen generators are used in dozens of industrial applications ranging from gold mining to aquaculture to life support.
Normal ambient air is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and other trace gases like argon and CO2. In order to remove the nitrogen and trace gases an oxygen generator is used.
The smallest portable oxygen concentrator can be no larger than a soda can, while industrial oxygen generators can be as large as a bus. However, all oxygen generators have the same purpose: to provide a safe supply of concentrated oxygen gas.
Businesses who need bulk oxygen often start by purchasing tanks from other companies who fill those tanks using an industrial oxygen generator. If the need is large and ongoing, it may be cost-effective for the business to purchase their own oxygen generator and produce oxygen on site. While the up-front cost of the machinery is significant, the cost per cubic foot of oxygen generated is 1/3 to 1/2 that of purchasing bulk oxygen, so over time the oxygen concentrator can pay for itself.
One example of this is hospitals that pipe oxygen into patient rooms. Instead of bottled oxygen, most hospitals have one or more industrial oxygen generators in the building.
Types of Oxygen Generators
Pressure Swing Adsorption Oxygen Generator
Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) is the most common method of producing oxygen at an industrial scale. PSA generators separate nitrogen from ambient air inside a pressurized tank filled with Zeolite. Zeolite is a natural or man-made mineral that acts as a “molecular sieve.” It is this ability to “sort” molecules by size that makes zeolite so useful. The larger nitrogen molecules are adsorbed by the sieve material while the smaller oxygen molecules drift past and are collected. Pressure is then released, the nitrogen molecules are vented to the atmosphere, and the tank is pressurized again.
Using PSA will result in 90-95% oxygenated gas. Further refinement can be achieved by repeating the process until over 99% “pure” oxygen is generated.
As a side note, the PSA process can also be used to generate nitrogen by collecting the nitrogen molecules and venting the oxygen. PSA is also used in the large-scale commercial synthesis of hydrogen used in oil refineries and in the production of ammonia for fertilizer.
One special kind of oxygen generator is more commonly known as an oxygen concentrator which is used as an alternative to oxygen bottles for home health care. While the up-front cost of the machine is more expensive than oxygen cylinders, they are safer than bottled oxygen and over time less expensive than having oxygen tanks delivered to the home.
Oxygen concentrators are normally sold through medical supply houses and can be purchased with a prescription from a physician.
A nebulizer is a piece of medical equipment that a person with asthma or another respiratory condition can use to administer medication directly and quickly to the lungs.
A nebulizer turns liquid medicine into a very fine mist that a person can inhale through a face mask or mouthpiece. Taking medicine this way allows it to go straight into the lungs and the respiratory system where it is needed.