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How do portable oxygen concentrators work?

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Quick Answer

A portable oxygen concentrator works by compressing air from the environment and then passing it through a sieve bed to remove the nitrogen. The concentrator has two sieve beds containing Zeolite, a cubic crystal that collects the nitrogen when the air is under pressure and releases it with the reduction of pressure. The device uses a heat exchanger to keep the air cool and stores the oxygen in a tank for the patient’s use, according to the Oxygen Concentrator Store.

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Normal air is approximately 20 percent oxygen and 80 percent nitrogen. The portable oxygen concentrator produces 90 to 95 percent pure oxygen, reports the Oxygen Concentrator Store. Concentrators are safer than oxygen tanks, which store compressed oxygen. The Federal Aviation Administration allows airplane passengers who require oxygen therapy to carry these units onto their planes.

Oxygen concentrators offer a less expensive method of oxygen therapy than other methods of delivery do, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. However, they require electricity to operate. Patients who are dependent on the therapy must have a battery backup in the event of a power failure. The unit delivers oxygen to the nose through a small tube and a cannula. The cannula is a plastic interface with prongs that fit into both nostrils and deliver the oxygen.

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