how do oxygen concentrators work?

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what is an oxygen concentrator?

The recent COVID 19 pandemic has affected millions of people around the world. Your lungs are the first organ to be affected by COVID 19 and also where most of the damage takes place. In less than 10 percent of the patients, the disease starts with some minor flu-like symptoms and in some cases progresses to extremely severe symptoms. This leads to excessive pulmonary involvement by decreasing one’s oxygen saturation levels. This leads to shortness of breath, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and pneumonia. In this case, lung-protective ventilation becomes a necessity to provide respiratory support to the patients

With the exponential rise in the number of COVID 19 cases, the numbers of those experiencing severe symptoms have also drastically increased. This has created immense pressure on our existing healthcare system and increased the demand for medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders.

This has also led to an upsurge in the demand for oxygen concentrators, especially for those who are in home isolation or are travelling to the hospital and may need it on the way.

But while we all are talking about oxygen concentrators and how essential they are, not many of us are aware of oxygen concentrators meaning, how to know the one that would work the best for you, and how to use one.

It is a medical device that provides extra oxygen to anyone with breathing issues, and not just COVID 19 patients. They are not a new discovery. They have been in use for a few years to treat patients with conditions such as sleep apnea and COPD.

There are mainly two types of oxygen concentrators namely:

Continuous flow oxygen concentrators: These oxygen concentrators provide the same static flow of oxygen unless turned off.

Pulse oxygen concentrators: These oxygen concentrators supply oxygen when they detect a breathing pattern and inhalation by the person using them.

how does an oxygen concentrator machine work?

We often wonder about how oxygen concentrators work. To simply explain the oxygen concentrator working principle, it draws in air, purifies it, and distributes the new air into the surroundings. It consists of a compressor, sieve filter, pressure valve, oxygen tank, and an oxygen mask.

It takes in air that’s made of 80 percent oxygen and 20 percent oxygen. This air moves to the sieve bed filters and their six-sided microscopic perforated cube (Zeolite) that remove its nitrogen content, bacteria, and dust and release the nitrogen back into the air.

The resultant air has almost 90-95 percent of pure oxygen. This process continues in a loop and maintains a constant supply of oxygen for the user.

As compared to a portable oxygen cylinder for home, an oxygen concentrator doesn’t need refilling and runs 24/7 on electricity.

Installing an oxygen concentrator at home requires a doctor’s prescription. Once you get this permission, the doctor himself or the company’s representatives will educate you on how oxygen concentrators work.

who needs oxygen concentrator and when?

According to pulmonologists, these are the conditions that deem the use of an oxygen concentrator necessary:

When a person is mildly or moderately ill and their oxygen saturation has dropped below 94%. This situation could arise from conditions such as asthma, flu, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, and COVID 19. In this case, cost-effective and reliable oxygen concentrators from Philips are the best choice for home oxygen therapy.

People whose oxygen saturation has dropped up to 85% can also use an oxygen concentrator. But this is only advised as a temporary measure. Such patients should get admitted to a healthcare facility and get access to an oxygen cylinder that provides a stronger oxygen flow.

Due to the fragile nature of their situation, oxygen concentrators should not be used by people admitted to the ICU.

oxygen concentrator vs oxygen cylinder vs liquid medical oxygen

We often wonder about oxygen concentrators vs oxygen cylinders and which one would be a better choice for our needs.

When it comes to urgent oxygen therapy, whether at home or during your travel to the hospital, oxygen concentrators are the best and the most reliable option. The weight and size of portable oxygen cylinders for home make them difficult to use flexibly especially during travel.

Talking about the costs, though oxygen concentrators are more expensive than oxygen cylinders, they are much more economical to maintain. Unlike oxygen cylinders, they don’t need to be refilled and run on electricity. Besides fitments such as oxygen cylinder regulators, filters, and tubes are quite expensive.

However, when it comes to critical patients who need pure oxygen in higher quantities, oxygen cylinders work better. They can pump 40-45 litres of oxygen per minute as against oxygen concentrators that supply 5-10 litres of oxygen per minute.

Liquid medical oxygen is of the highest purity i.e. 99.5 percent and is used for patients who need more than 6 litres of oxygen per minute. This type of oxygen is delivered through a stationary concentrator while you are at home or an ambulatory tank when you are travelling.

what are the things to consider while buying an oxygen concentrator?

The importance of an oxygen concentrator cannot be stressed enough, especially in critical situations. That’s why it is important to consider these points before you invest in an oxygen concentrator:

Always let a medical expert determine the amount of oxygen that is required before purchasing an oxygen concentrator.

The most important thing to consider is the flow rate capability of the oxygen concentrator. This simply means the rate at which the oxygen is supplied from the concentrator to the patient.

Ensure that the oxygen concentrator that you are buying has a higher flow rate capability than you need. For example, if you need 8 LPM, you should buy a 10 LPM concentrator.

Oxygen concentrators range in weight and portability and must be purchased depending on your mobility needs. Sometimes those that provide higher flow rates are heavier in size. However, there are some great options like mini portable oxygen concentrators by Philips that are small, lightweight, intuitive, and easy to carry.

Take into account other small but important points such as the noise generated, accessories, warranty, etc.


Oxygen concentrators are extremely vital in critical situations and are crucial lifesavers. It is essential to understand how they function, used judiciously, and are purchased to suit your needs.

Also Know About:


1. What does an oxygen concentrator machine do?

An oxygen concentrator is a device that concentrates the oxygen from a gas supply by selectively removing nitrogen to supply an oxygen-enriched product gas stream. They are mostly used as medical oxygen therapy devices.

2. Can I travel with an oxygen concentrator?

Yes, there are portable oxygen concentrators available that are lightweight and designed for travel. However, it’s essential to check airline regulations and inform them in advance about carrying a concentrator.

3. How do I choose the right oxygen concentrator for me?

It is crucial to consult a medical professional to determine the required oxygen flow rate. When selecting an oxygen concentrator, Consider flow rate capability, portability, noise level, accessories, and warranty.

4. How should I maintain an oxygen concentrator?

Regularly clean the filters and other removable parts per the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep the concentrator in a well-ventilated area and avoid blocking the air vents. It’s also essential to have periodic maintenance checks by authorised service providers.

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