Do-it-yourself oxygen conversion unit could be an inexpensive solution to tackle COVID-19 in India

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As COVID-19 continues to devastate much of India, a group of international researchers led by Monash University have developed an oxygen conversion unit that can be built from local materials, allowing doctors to provide life-saving oxygen treatment.

Professor Abishek Sharma from the University of Manipal with the oxygen conversion unit. Image Credit: Monash University

Due to the large number of COVID-19 cases in India, the supply of oxygen tanks has not been able to meet demand.

Oxygen conversion units remove nitrogen from the atmosphere, leaving gaseous oxygen behind. India has the capacity to produce liquid oxygen, but providing it for medical purposes has been difficult to maintain as it has to be transported on refrigerated tracks, which are scarce.

Professor Paul Webley, from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University, recognized the need for an urgent and inexpensive solution and designed an oxygen conversion unit that can be built from materials found in hardware stores. local Indian women.

Any technician with the unit’s design specs would be able to build it from scratch, load it into the back of a truck, and take it to village hospitals to help patients with COVID- 19. The unit is also easy to repair, rugged, relatively inexpensive to manufacture, and capable of running on a diesel generator.

“The converter unit we have developed has the capacity to produce oxygen on site, wherever it is needed. When I saw the disaster unfold in India, I knew I had to do something, ”said Professor Webley.

Dr Tejas Bhatalia, researcher at Curtin University and Professor Abishek Sharma, professor of chemical engineering at Manipal University in Jaipur, joined forces with Professor Webley to develop the unit.

After three months of virtual collaboration, Dr Bhatalia built a small testing unit in Perth, and Professor Dr Abhishek Sharma assembled a larger production version at the University of Manipul, Jaipur, where testing is currently in progress. Classes. Professor Webley’s original design has been slightly adapted to accommodate materials readily available in Jaipur.

“We are currently in the process of ensuring that the purity of the oxygen is sufficient. We are currently achieving a purity of around 70 percent and our goal is to reach 90 percent. The team and I are working on changes to make this happen and are confident that we will be able to do so soon, ”said Prof Sharma.

Researchers have been in contact with local hospitals in the area to secure a testing site for the unit to see if it will meet the hospital’s specifications and standards. If these tests prove successful, the researchers will develop more units.

Portable oxygen converters already exist for patients with chronic respiratory problems – they can be installed at home and are either purchased directly or rented from a hospital.

This particular DIY conversion unit is different because it is designed to deliver oxygen to 10, 20 or 30 patients at a time and was developed specifically so that locals can also build the unit from readily available materials.

My main goal was to help Indian engineers do it themselves. Can I teach them how to do this so that they can duplicate them and make them into the thousands and become completely self-sufficient? “.

Paul Webley, Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Monash University

The unit’s only specialized ingredient is molecular sieve, a form of silicon, which filters nitrogen. However, it is inexpensive and relatively easy to obtain and purchase for chemical engineers.

The oxygen unit produces an amount of oxygen similar to what would be obtained from an oxygen cylinder. The pressure is lower, however, in hospitals, patients do not breathe gas at high pressure. Instead, it’s an intermediate pressure, and some hospitals have informed researchers that the oxygen obtained from their unit is effective and compatible for connecting to their existing systems.

Researchers have also approached engineers in Brazil, where oxygen is also desperately needed. The unit could also be adapted for other countries requiring more oxygen units.

Researchers are now seeking collaborators to help promote the design, development and deployment of the technology in India and other countries affected by the pandemic.


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