Over the past year, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have been working on solutions to address the oxygen scarcity caused by COVID-19. Two key efforts in this direction have been the development of oxygen generating 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 had already been working on oxygen concentrators since March 2020. A prototype capable of producing oxygen at over 93% purity at five liters per minute (LPM) and 82% at 10 LPM was developed in August 2020 even. The researchers then modified this prototype which now delivers more than 93% pure oxygen at 10 LPM in three minutes. System stability and performance have been continuously monitored for over eight months. The clinical trials were completed and the system was found to work on par with the compressed oxygen cylinders.
To date, the technology has been transferred to 24 companies and around 35 units have been supplied to various hospitals. Recently, the government of Karnataka issued a circular for the provision of two units each to 2,508 public health centers by licensees, a press release said.
Another solution to meet the needs of hospitals is a technology-based oxygen generation system developed by an IISc team including researchers Arashdeep Singh and Anand M Shivapuji, and led by S Dasappa, professor at the Center for Sustainable Technologies. The process is based on an oscillating twin bed adsorption system integrated with storage and discharge vessels, and various safety systems. In one of the variants, a cylinder filling mechanism has also been incorporated using a booster pump. The oxygen produced meets the quality requirements prescribed by the Indian Pharmacopoeia and can be used in ICU / CCU / OT and other clinical services. Last month, the first unit based on this system was installed at Pobbathi Medical Center in Bengaluru.
On August 15, 2021, Professor Rangarajan, Director of 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 up to ten 47-liter bottles at a pressure of 200 bar in 24 hours, in addition to supplying oxygen to patient beds. Preparations are underway to ship the system to Lucknow Hospital.
The IISc has also signed technology transfer agreements with four agencies across the country for the installation of oxygen generation systems at different capacities (50 LPM-1000 LPM) to meet the requirements of hospitals.