What are oxygen concentrators & why are they crucial for India?

Steena Joy
·Contributor
·4 min read

As India fights the second wave of COVID, we are seeing a sudden demand for Oxygen supplying devices. While we are mostly familiar with Oxygen tanks or cylinders, we are hearing a lot about Oxygen Concentrators. 

What are they?

Oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators are both members of a group of medical devices that offer oxygen therapy to patients unable to get enough oxygen into their bodies on their own. They both dispense oxygen in almost exactly the same way, delivering oxygen directly to the patient via a nasal cannula or oxygen mask. But they both perform the task differently.

While oxygen tanks contain a fixed amount of pressurised oxygen, concentrators collect oxygen from the surrounding air, concentrate it, and then deliver it to the patient, removing the need for refilling
While oxygen tanks contain a fixed amount of pressurised oxygen, concentrators collect oxygen from the surrounding air, concentrate it, and then deliver it to the patient, removing the need for refilling

While oxygen tanks contain a fixed amount of pressurised oxygen, Concentrators collect oxygen from the surrounding air, concentrate it, and then deliver it to the patient, removing the need for refilling. The ability of oxygen concentrators to continuously draw in and treat air ensures that, unlike oxygen tanks, the concentrator will never run out of oxygen.

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How do they work?

As we know, air is made up of 78 per cent nitrogen and 21 per cent oxygen. Oxygen concentrators take in this air, filter it through a sieve, release the nitrogen back into the air, and then concentrate the remaining oxygen. The oxygen that is concentrated in this device holds 90 to 95 per cent purity and it can easily be dispensed through a pressure valve that helps to regulate the flow to the nasal cannula. The pressure valve in concentrators helps regulate supply, ranging from 1-10 litres per minute.

Oxygen concentrators take in this air, filter it through a sieve, release the nitrogen back into the air, and then concentrate the remaining oxygen
Air is made up of 78 per cent nitrogen and 21 per cent oxygen. Oxygen concentrators take in this air, filter it through a sieve, release the nitrogen back into the air, and then concentrate the remaining oxygen

According to a report by the WHO, concentrators are designed for continuous operation and can produce oxygen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for up to 5 years or more. This device is a power-based machine, they are portable and are easy to use too. Because they do not use pressurised oxygen within a tank, oxygen concentrators must rely on battery or electric power to perform their air filtering and oxygen flow. As is the case with any battery-powered device, the available charge in the battery must be considered.

At the same time, concentrators do not require a dense metal tank. This means that they are notably lighter and more portable than most oxygen cylinders.

While concentrators are more expensive costing Rs 40,000 to a lakh vis a vis cylinders (Rs 8,000-20,000), it’s largely a one-time investment. These days Oxygen concentrators are also available on rent (Rs 15,000 for a month).

While concentrators are more expensive costing Rs 40,000 to a lakh vis a vis cylinders (Rs 8,000-20,000), it’s largely a one-time investment. These days Oxygen concentrators are also available on rent (Rs 15,000 for a month)
While concentrators are more expensive costing Rs 40,000 to a lakh vis a vis cylinders (Rs 8,000-20,000), it’s largely a one-time investment. These days Oxygen concentrators are also available on rent (Rs 15,000 for a month)

Oxygen concentrators consist of a cabinet that houses the compressor and filters; tubing; a nasal cannula and/or face mask. Portable units will additionally include an AC and/or DC charger, and a battery.

It is important to understand that an oxygen concentrator can only be used under medical supervision and prescription and it should not be considered as a treatment for Covid-19.

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Did you know?

Believe it or not oxygen concentrators date back as far as the early 1800’s. In 1885, the first ever recorded use of oxygen was documented for a medical purpose to treat a patient with pneumonia. This revolutionary treatment was administered and pioneered by Dr George Holzapple. Just two years later, a product was invented and sold that stored enough oxygen for intermittent use. In the early 1900s, a nasal catheter and oxygen mask were first introduced. Then, in the 1950s, oxygen therapy was first made portable with small, high-pressure oxygen cylinders, a version of which was used regularly well into the 1970s.

Some of the popular brands available in India are:

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