To rescue thousands of Covid-19 patients who are dying due to a shortage of oxygen and storage cylinders, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will offer innovative, home-grown technology for launching 500 medical oxygen plants (MOPs).
These will be established within three months, under the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation (PM CARES) Fund, a DRDO declared on Wednesday.
Each oxygen plant is designed to produce 1,000 litres of oxygen per minute (LPM). This quantity amounts to life-saving oxygen supply to 190 patients, at a flow rate of 5 litres per minute (LPM), and also enables the charging of 195 cylinders per day.
The technology that goes into these MOPs has been developed by the DRDO’s Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory, Bengaluru (DEBEL) for generating oxygen on‐board the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) – essential for the pilots to breathe while flying at high altitudes.
Wednesday that it has transferred the technology
needed for manufacturing the gas to two private sector companies: Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), Bengaluru will use it to produce 332 MOPs, while Trident Pneumatics, Coimbatore will build 48 systems.
These 380 oxygen plants will be installed in various hospitals in the country. Another 120 plants will be produced by firms working with Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, which is under the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).
“MOP technology is capable of generating oxygen with 93±3% concentration which can be directly supplied to hospital beds or can be used to fill medical oxygen cylinders. It utilizes Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technique and Molecular Sieve (Zeolite) technology to generate oxygen directly from atmospheric air,” told the DADO.
The PSA technique is used to distinguish different gases in a mixture. Each gas is attracted to different solid surfaces to a larger or lesser degree. When a gas mixture for example air, which is a mixture of mainly nitrogen and oxygen, is pushed under pressure through a vessel containing an adsorbent bed of zeolite, the nitrogen will be absorbed in the bed, since it is attracted more strongly to zeolite than is oxygen. The gas that exits the vessel, hence, is rich in oxygen, having shed most of its nitrogen.
The higher the pressure with which the air is pumped, the more nitrogen the zeolite bed adsorbs. When the bed is saturated, the nitrogen can be released by reducing the pressure. With the nitrogen thus released, the plant becomes ready for another cycle of producing oxygen-enriched air.
“The installation of this plant helps in avoiding hospital dependency on scarce oxygen cylinders especially at high altitude and inaccessible remote areas,” stated the DRDO.
MOPs have already been installed at some army sites in the northeast and in Ladakh. The DRDO says the plant complies with International Standards like ISO 1008, European, US and Indian Pharmacopeia. Sites are being set for installing five plants in the National Capital Region.