Evaluation of an Oxygen Concentrator for Use at High Altitude
ARMY RESEARCH INST OF ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE NATICK MA
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Supplying medical oxygen at high altitude sites is a major logistical problem. Oxygen concentrators based on molecular sieve technology provide an almost inexhaustible source of medical grade oxygen at a relatively low cost. However, data on the functional characteristics of O2 concentrators at high altitudes are minimal. Our objective was to determine the effectiveness of the oxygen concentrator at moderate and high altitudes. The study measured the maximum sustained O2 flow rate, O2 concentration O2 and internal temperature Ti of the O2 concentrator for up to 8 hours at altitudes ranging from SL to 18,000 ft. in a hypobaric chamber maintained at 20 deg C and 40 relative humidity. At SL through 18,000, the O2 concentrator provided an O2 of 95.3 - 0.1 at a steady-state flow rate of 4.5 LPM - 0.1 LPM, with Ti of 50.6 deg C - 1.1 deg C. At each time interval over the 8-h period, the values for flow and O2 did not fluctuate significantly. However, Ti increased slightly and steadily approx. 4 deg C rise over the first 2 hours before stabilizing. The consistent pattern observed at each altitude was a low O2 at the lowest and highest flow rates, with the highest O2 producing middle range of flow rates. We conclude that from sea level to 18,000, molecular sieve based O2 concentrators are capable of providing medical grade supplemental O2 for at least 8 hours.
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