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What is an oxygen concentrator?

Sentient Bionic’s team of engineers created an oxygen concentrator in a briefcase called SentOx. But what exactly is an oxygen concentrator? And how can it help the low and middle-income countries battling with COVID-19 and low oxygen supplies?

What does an oxygen concentrator do?

An oxygen concentrator is a device that concentrates the oxygen from a gas supply (typically ambient air). By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. By selectively removing nitrogen, you can supply roughly 95% purity oxygen product gas stream. The purified, oxygen-rich gas is then delivered to the patient. Anyone who suffers from low blood oxygen can benefit from an oxygen concentrator. The main benefits are continuous oxygen supply at low running cost and the output flow can be split among multiple patients.

How does an oxygen concentrator work?

Oxygen concentrators use a process called Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) to separate the nitrogen from the air. This process uses a material called Zeolite which has a high selectivity to adsorb nitrogen on its surface over oxygen atoms under pressure. By alternating two chambers that are pressurised and depressurised, you can separate the nitrogen and release it to the atmosphere while collecting oxygen-rich gas.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how a basic PSA cycle works:

1. The machine pulls in air from the room.

2. The machine compresses the oxygen of the ambient air.

3. The machine takes out nitrogen from the ambient air.

4. The machine delivers the purified air.

Illustration of the Pressure swing adsorption process.

Oxygen concentrator vs ventilator.

What is the difference? Ventilator mimics respiration and aids in breathing so that the patient can rest and their body can heal. An Oxygen Concentrator only supplies enriched oxygen gas and does not assistant in the patient breathing.

We chose to develop an oxygen concentrator instead of a ventilator because mechanical ventilators are mainly beneficial to Western hospitals, where oxygen supply is already freely available, in enough supply and taken for granted. This is not the case in the remote regions of the less-developed countries. They need oxygen more than they need ventilators.

How oxygen concentrators will help the LMIC.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts 32 million potential patients will need oxygen therapy in the next 18 months, so oxygen machines are more than needed. Even without COVID-19 cases, our machines can be used for other respiratory diseases like pneumonia, malaria and asthma.

SentOx’s design is portable and rugged, aimed at helping the developing world's hospitals and clinics that have low resources and scarce medical equipment. It focuses on a Low-Resource Setting (LRS) where materials and specialised equipment is hard to find.

Along with our machines, we send all the information needed to use and maintain SentOx so that’s it’s easy for the medical staff to operate and maintain the machine.

SentOx’s mission and design are here to stay. We’ve developed a safe and cost-effective machine that will make oxygen therapy’s access a problem in the past.


Do you or your company wish to be involved in this philanthropic cause? There are different ways you can do that:

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