Breathing Easier: Overview of Personal Medical Oxygen Concentrators

Breathing Easier: Overview of Personal Medical Oxygen Concentrators

In North America and around the world, an increasing number of people are prescribed long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) every day for a variety of illnesses such as COPD, heart failure and sleep apnea. Many of these people are prescribed high-purity oxygen to improve their health outcomes by reducing symptoms and disease mortality.[1] While this was accomplished before by using cylinders filled with compressed O2 from industrial gas companies,[2] the medical oxygen concentrator business developed to become a multibillion dollar industry.[3] As shown over the past 15 years, Zeochem excels in producing high-performance molecular sieve products for use in medical oxygen therapy.

All medical oxygen concentrators on the market today utilize a process called pressure swing adsorption (PSA), which is a dynamic process using sieve beds (tubes filled with molecular sieve) to take in air from their surroundings and separate the oxygen from nitrogen. The sieve “likes” to adsorb nitrogen about three times as much as it does oxygen. This property is what allows the separation to occur.

When air is pumped through one end of the sieve bed at high pressure, the nitrogen gas is adsorbed by the sieve, which allows the oxygen to flow out the other side as a concentrated, purified gas. The sieve eventually will fill up with nitrogen and has to be regenerated. For this step, the pressure is lowered and pure oxygen is used to “purge” the nitrogen out of the sieve. This step makes the sieve again ready to adsorb more nitrogen. With two beds operating at the same time (one adsorbing while the other regenerates), the PSA process can deliver a constant, consistent stream of 95–96% pure oxygen to the patient.

Medical oxygen concentrators come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Stationary concentrators were the first type of units to be designed in the 1970’s[2] and make up the bulk of the medical oxygen concentrator industry. These concentrators are designed to be used in homes and in care facility settings. However, as the oxygen user population has grown, more patients want a more convenient source of portable oxygen so they can “get out and go!” To meet that need, medical device manufacturers continue to develop smaller, more efficient and lighter portable oxygen concentrators (POCs).

We are proud to be a part of this vital industry and to support our customers with our ZEOX line of medical oxygen sieves. Having more convenient forms of oxygen available in the market goes a long way in helping respiratory patients breathe a little easier.

-Alex Hawkins

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