Over the past year, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have been working on solutions to address the oxygen starvation caused by COVID-19. Two important efforts in this direction have been the development of oxygen generation systems and oxygen concentrators.
The oxygen concentrator is an indigenous design developed by IISc researchers led by Praveen Ramamurthy, professor in the Department of Materials Engineering. The group has been working on oxygen concentrators since March 2020. By August 2020, a prototype was developed that can produce oxygen with a purity of more than 93% at five liters per minute (LPM) and 82% at 10 LPM. The researchers then modified this prototype, which now delivers more than 93% pure oxygen at 10 LPM within three minutes. The stability and performance of the system was continuously monitored for more than eight months. Clinical studies have been completed and the system has been found to be comparable to pressurized oxygen cylinders.
To date, the technology has been transferred to 24 companies and around 35 units have been delivered to various hospitals. Recently, the Karnataka government issued a circular from licensees to deliver two units at a time to 2,508 public health centers, according to a press release.
Another solution that meets the needs of hospitals is an oxygen generation system based on technology developed by an IISc team that includes researchers Arashdeep Singh and Anand M. Shivapuji and by S. Dasappa, professor at the Center for Sustainable Technologies. The process is based on a two-bed swing adsorption system that is integrated with storage and unloading bins and various security systems. In one of the variants, a cylinder filling mechanism with a booster pump was also installed. The oxygen produced meets the quality requirements of the Indian Pharmacopoeia and can be used in intensive care units / CCUs / OTs and other clinical wards. Last month, the first unit based on this system was installed at the Pobbathi Medical Center in Bengaluru.
On August 15, 2021, Prof. Rangarajan, the director of the IISc, inaugurated an open source design for a medical oxygen generation system with a capacity of 50 LPM. The system will be installed at St. Mary’s Polyclinic in Lucknow. A unique feature of this system is the ability to fill around ten 47-liter bottles at 200 bar pressure within 24 hours, in addition to supplying the patient’s beds with oxygen. Preparations for shipping the system to Lucknow Hospital are in progress.
IISc has also signed technology transfer agreements with four agencies from across the country to install oxygen generation systems of various capacities (50 LPM-1000 LPM) to meet hospital needs.