Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay is piloting a new technology to convert nitrogen into oxygen amid the oxygen crisis in the country.
The institute said in a statement that Milind Atrey, professor and dean (R&D), who specialises in Cryogenic Engineering took up a pilot project with Tata Consulting Engineers (TCE) to evaluate the conversion of PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption) Nitrogen Unit to PSA oxygen unit.
This is being done by fine-tuning the existing nitrogen plant setup and changing the molecular sieves from Carbon to Zeolite. Such nitrogen plants, which take air from the atmosphere as raw material, are available across India in various industrial plants. Therefore, each of them has the potential of being converted to an oxygen generator to tide over the current emergency.
At IIT Bombay, a PSA nitrogen plant in the Refrigeration and Cryogenics Laboratory was identified for conversion to validate the proof of concept. To undertake this study on an urgent basis, an MoU was signed between IIT Bombay, Tata Consulting Engineers and Spantech Engineers to finalise an SOP that may be leveraged across the country.
The country is reeling under an unprecedented crisis with several hospitals struggling to get a continuous supply of oxygen.
The manufacturing and supply of this life-saving gas, which was always in surplus in India, has suddenly become scarce, and a top priority for the government.
How does it work?
Spantech Engineers, Mumbai, who deal with PSA Nitrogen & Oxygen plant production, agreed to partner with IIT Bombay and TCE on this pilot project and installed the required plant components as a skid at IIT Bombay for evaluation using IIT Bombay’s infrastructure at the IITB Nitrogen facility at the Refrigeration and Cryogenics lab.
"This gaseous oxygen can be utilised for COVID related needs across existing hospitals and upcoming COVID specific facilities by providing a continuous supply of oxygen," the institute said.
IIT Bombay said the setup for the experiment was developed within three days, and the initial tests have shown good results. Oxygen production could be achieved at 3.5 atm pressure with a purity level of 93-96 percent.
Amit Sharma, Managing Director, Tata Consulting Engineers, said, "We are delighted to partner with IIT Bombay and Spantech Engineers, and contribute towards an innovative solution for emergency oxygen generation using existing infrastructure towards helping the country tide over the current crisis. Such partnerships between industry and academia can accelerate our vision towards the AtmaNirbhar Bharat."
Subhasis Chaudhuri, Director of IIT Bombay has requested various government authorities, non-governmental organisations NGOs, and private companies to contact Atrey and Tata Consulting Engineers to enable the rapid adoption of this technology across the country.