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Tejas aircraft tech comes in aid of oxygen-starved Indian cities. This is how it works

The tech is an offshoot of On-Board Oxygen Generation System project for medical grade oxygen generation on board Tejas. India is the 4th country to develop this.

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New Delhi: As the national capital region and other cities across the country face oxygen shortage amid the massive Covid-19 wave, a technology used in the indigenously-developed light combat aircraft Tejas has come to the rescue.

Referred to as the Medical Oxygen Plant (MOP), the technology has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for on‐board oxygen generation for Tejas.

Under the PM CARES Fund initiative, the DRDO will set up 500 medical oxygen plants within three months across the country, the defence body said in a statement Wednesday.

DRDO sources told ThePrint that at least five such plants will come up in the NCR by 10 May.

The MOP technology is an offshoot of the On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) project for medical grade oxygen generation on board Tejas. India is the 4th country in the world to develop this technology.

It utilises Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technique and molecular sieve to generate oxygen directly from atmospheric air.

Amid the Covid crisis, the DRDO has transferred this technology to private companies Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, Bengaluru and Trident Pneumatics Pvt. Ltd, Coimbatore, which will produce 380 plants of 1000 litres-per-minute (LPM) for installation across various hospitals in the country, the statement said.

While Tata Advanced Systems will supply 332 orders, Trident will produce 48.

Moreover, 120 plants of 500 LPM capacity will be produced by industries working with the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

These systems can cater to 190 patients at a flow rate of 5 LPM and can charge 195 cylinders per day, the statement said.

The MOP technology is capable of generating oxygen with 93±3 per cent concentration which can be directly supplied to hospital beds or can be used to fill medical oxygen cylinders.

These have already been installed at some of the Army sites in the Northeast and Leh-Ladakh regions.

Also read: Only one-third beds occupied in ITBP Covid care centre as oxygen supply ‘limited’

How does it work

The MOP utilises an air compressor to provide input air supply to the oxygen plant which is filtered and dried by an air dryer and filtration system before the air is admitted to oxygen generator.

The oxygen generator removes the nitrogen from the air by adsorbing it in the molecular sieves and produces an output with 93±3 per cent oxygen, the balance being argon which is not adsorbed.

For separating oxygen from air, the MOP employs PSA technique. Nitrogen is preferentially adsorbed in molecular sieves at higher pressures, thereby concentrating oxygen, DRDO sources said. The adsorbed nitrogen is released at low pressure (usually atmospheric pressure).

This technique is employed by alternating the pressurisation of the two adsorbent beds.

“While one bed is pressurised, the opposite bed is depressurised and exhausts previously adsorbed gases to the surrounding atmosphere. However, the inability of current zeolite molecular sieves to discriminate between oxygen and argon results in oxygen purity of 93±3 per cent. Both oxygen and argon concentrate in the oxygen generators,” a source explained.

The concentrator system is fitted with a filter to remove particulate material, if any.

The output is stored in a storage tank.

An oxygen compressor/booster is connected to the system to fill cylinders which can be transported to nearby areas for use.

The system is designed for a capacity to cater 5 LPM per person for up to 200 individuals amounting to total capacity of 960 LPM (57.6 M3/hour).

Also read: Modi govt pulls up Delhi over oxygen supply chaos, dip in daily testing, other Covid logistics


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