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All About Portable Oxygen Concentrators

Updated on September 29, 2010
O2 - Oxygen
O2 - Oxygen


Many people find it a necessity to seek the use of an oxygen concentrator to help with their various breathing difficulties. This could be due in part to the amount of pollutants in our atmosphere. The oxygen producing machines have come a long way in their technology and development; no longer must a person feel the need to be confined to their home because they do not wish to deal with a bulky portable unit, or the heavy oxygen cylinders that required a small cart to hold them.

While the old fashioned portable oxygen devices allowed for a certain amount of mobility, the obvious problem, aside from bulkiness, was the time constraint they placed on your mobility. The portable machine required refilling while the cylinders, already filled, were limited on the amount of oxygen they contained. Both would hold approximately two hours worth of air, although the cylinders made extended trips out more easily managed because you could carry more than one and change it out, this was still a time consuming and stressful operation because of the size and weight. Thanks to the advances we have now this is no longer a problem that presents an issue for people who require oxygen thanks to the portable oxygen concentrator.

What is oxygen concentrator?

Many people wonder how an oxygen concentrator works if it does not utilize compressed oxygen, the answer is simple. The standard design has two cylinders that are both filled with a zeolite material that absorbs the nitrogen in the air. The air is processed in cycles, flowing through one cylinder at a pressure of around 20 psig, the nitrogen molecules are held by the zeolite. While this process is taking place the other cylinder is then vented off to the ambient atmospheric pressure, this allows the trapped nitrogen to dissipate. Basically, the air around the device is brought in and filtered, allowing only pure oxygen to be released from it.

The typical units have cycles of around 20 seconds, this will allow a continuous supply of oxygen to flow at a rate of approximately 5 liters per minute or LPM”S, at levels of concentration of anywhere from 50 to 95%. This process if referred to as pressure swing absorption or PSA. These devices have been available for patients who require a higher flow and, surprisingly, the sizes of the devices are not much larger or heavier than 5 LPM concentrators

Oxygen Concentrator How it Works


Video: How to Operate Oxygen Concentrator

Portable oxygen concentrators

The portable oxygen concentrator has been in use since around 2000. These devices typically produce less than one LPM of oxygen and use a version of pulse flow or demand flow to deliver oxygen. The way this works is that the oxygen is not constantly flowing, only when the patient is inhaling is the flow working. The only draw back to this type of device is that there are only a few portable oxygen concentrators that produce at least 3 LPM of continuous flow oxygen. However, with the demand flow the device is able to either provide higher flows or are able to reduce power consumption. Portable oxygen concentrators typically use electricity from a wall outlet and can also run on batteries.

People who find portable oxygen concentrators of the most use are those who wish to travel. The FAA has approved these devices on commercial airlines, just check to make certain that your brand and model is permitted on a particular airline. While these types of devices are very versatile the demand or pulse flow concentrators should not be used while a patient is sleeping, especially is the nasal cannula moves in such a way that the concentrator is not able to detect when a patient is inhaling

Purchasing these types of units can typically range in the neighborhood of around $800 for the heavier devices and less for the portable ones. The choice of whether you rent or buy is usually based on your doctor’s diagnosis of your condition as well as you insurance companies’ policy in such situations. If you are paying for the expense yourself, you will want to give consideration as to the length of time your condition is expected to last and the types of services the supplier is willing to offer. Renting can offer you the convenience of maintenance should your device need it, while buying means if it breaks you’re responsible for fixing it.

Video: Troubleshooting of Home Oxygen Concentrator


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    • profile image

      Invacare Solo2 

      10 years ago

      The technology has come a long way. 10 years ago we didn't imagine that we could have got out of the house and travel.

    • crystolite profile image


      10 years ago from Houston TX

      Nice information in here and i honestly appreciate this overview on oxygen concentrator.


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