Spacecraft Life Support

Sustainable Oxygen Concentrator – Project completed July 2011

An oxygen concentrator that is targeting 80% less power than current commercial systems is being developed using an innovative pressure swing adsorption process. This system can likely operate for five times as long without service, and is tolerant to high humidity environments; the leading cause of device failure in developing countries. This system could p

rovide emergency medical oxygen in a spacecraft without increasing oxygen concentration in the vehicle. Flight surgeons seek this capability, but presently, there is no system that meets power, size, and delivery rate requirements. This type of system is also well suited for medical oxygen in hospitals in developing countries.

Pneumonia accounts for 5% of all childhood deaths in Africa, and a lack of medical oxygen contributes to mortality rates. This new approach involves a “high flow – low power – low purity device”. This type of device is not suited to every application, 

but it meets the critical needs for a compact, high flow emergency medical device on spacecraft, and it meets the needs for medical oxygen in developing countries. The process uses a regenerative blower instead of a piston compressor, a humidity tolerant sorbent, and an untraditional separation cycle.