As oxygen import woes increase, former ISB batchmates collaborate with IIT Tirupati to develop a fully indigenous PSA oxygen plant to help the Covid patients. The current procuring of the oxygen plants are time taking and is often reliant on import from other countries. This novel method (also open sourced) will help the hospitals in even remote areas become self-sufficient.
The second wave of COVID-19 in India hiked the requirement for life-saving oxygen. Most means of procuring Oxygen cylinders in India, including importing from abroad, are cumbersome. India produces enough oxygen for industrial purposes. Yet, the primary bottlenecks are in transport and storage. The leading vendors ask for a lead time of at least six weeks. Additionally, the production was not enough to meet the growing demand. The hunt continued to find a better alternative that was sustainable and can be made using the locally available components. A group of three friends came together to brainstorm over how they could simplify the on-site oxygen production in hospitals. They came up with the indigenous ‘Oxyflow’ PSA System to produce oxygen for the Covid patients. Prashant Manne, Ashish Naredi, and Sireesha Yadlapalli have been college mates in ISB long back. The second wave got them talking about the problems the country was facing. Some impromptu conversations led them to tinker around for a solution. The trio teamed up with Dr Sasidhar Gumma from IIT Tirupati to develop this indigenous system.
What is the Oxyflow PSA System?
The Oxyflow PSA System is designed to generate medical-grade Oxygen from Air by Pressure Swing Adsorption system. The device adsorbs air from surrounding and filters oxygen, which is ready to be given at adequate pressure to the patient. It uses local technology and resources to produce medical-grade oxygen. It could be easily installed and maintained within hospital premises to expeditiously produce oxygen and fulfil the requirements. The ‘Telangana-made product’ offers installation within two-three weeks. The best part is that all the parts are sourced locally to develop the product. This makes it a far better and cost-effective alternative in comparison to the liquid Oxygen cylinders.
Working Principle of Oxyflow
The Oxyflow has a simple working principle. Ashish Naredi explains, “The air compressor compresses the atmospheric air. It is then passed over the sodium zeolite.” The zeolite separates this air into nitrogen and oxygen. While the nitrogen is released into the air, the oxygen is cleaned, stored, and purified for further use. The plant can produce anything between 60 litres per minute to 1000 litres of oxygen per minute with about 95% purity. Ashish shared how Oxygen is readily available in the air. The Oxyflow captures the usable air and does not manufacture it. The success of this product would go on to multiply the availability of oxygen plants across the country.
The Initial Struggles
Initially, the team planned to procure the cylinders and install them in the hospitals. However, they realised that it takes several weeks for the vendors to deliver the cylinders. Then they brainstormed and found a way out by developing the Oxyflow. But the journey had its hurdles.
The PSA system utilises zeolite as a key component for oxygen production. Most manufacturers use lithium-based zeolite in the oxygen plants. However, it is both expensive and scarcely available due to the surge in demand. They figured out a method to utilise an inferior grade of zeolite (sodium-based) in their system. It is readily available and has a longer shelf life of up to 2 years. Although it’s less efficient, the team worked its way around to improve its efficiency. Dr Sasidhar provided the necessary technical support to use it in the plants, without compromising on either the quality or the purity of the oxygen produced.
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Benefits of Oxyflow
“We took roughly three weeks to develop the product from scratch,” Prashant Manne, the technical lead of the project shared. “Currently, we can manufacture about 20-30 systems at our Hyderabad-based facility,” adds Manne. This home-grown system would add to the in-house oxygen manufacturing capacity while bringing in lower development and maintenance costs. In addition to this, the system is fully automated. The Oxyflow does not require any human intervention to regulate the temperature, pressure or check the purity. The incorporation of IoT technology makes it easier to diagnose its problem and operate on its own.
Ashish revealed that they have run the pilot test and would be donating the plant to one of the charitable hospitals. He further added that the technology is easily replicable and the team would be more than happy to share the idea with others. They are keen on tying up with more hospitals and care settings in future. The team is open to collaborating with the industry partners to increase the production and marketing of Oxyflow. Their primary goal is to help the country with braving the crisis.