When it comes to purifying and separating oxygen from air, you need to use a material that is highly porous in nature, is made of numerous tiny pores, and acts as molecular sieves. It allows for the efficient separation of oxygen from the air due to its property of selectively attracting and trapping nitrogen molecules while allowing oxygen molecules to pass through freely.
This remarkable property of zeolites is the primary foundation of the pressure swing adsorption or the PSA technology, and the primary method that uses zeolite for oxygen concentrator to produce high-purity oxygen from surrounding air.
The PSA process involves the packing of zeolites into two columns within an oxygen concentrator. When air passes through one of these columns, zeolites adsorb nitrogen molecules and leave oxygen-enriched air behind.
At the same time, the pressure in the other column is released, causing adsorbed nitrogen to be desorbed and released into the atmosphere. The process alternates between the two columns to ensure a continuous flow of oxygen at up to 95% oxygen content.
Zeolite is a highly microporous material that is naturally found and synthetic in nature. These molecular sieves are widely used in a wide range of industries, like pharmaceuticals, medicine, petrochemistry, and environmental purification and alteration.
What makes zeolites so special is their complex crystalline structure, since it is made up of a vast network of microscopic pores, that can measure between 0.3 and 1.5 micrometers, and these pores, act like a network of tunnels, giving zeolites the ability to adsorb molecules of different sizes, shapes, and affinity.
Zeolites, which are also commonly known as molecular sieves can effectively adsorb molecules of different sizes and shapes. This selectivity property of zeolites is available due to the fact that they have the exact same size as their pores. Thus, during the purification or separation process in oxygen concentrators, the smaller molecules can pass through and be trapped, while larger molecules can be excluded and separated efficiently in the air concentrator. This size-exclusion property is similar to that of a sieve, where some particles can pass through while others are kept inside, and that is how they get their name.
Since Zeolite materials are highly porous, have selective adsorbing capabilities, are thermally stable, and are chemically resistant to various compounds and components, this makes them essential materials in a wide range of industrial applications like oxygen concentrators, and processes. The ability to separate molecules by size and shape has allowed zeolites to be used in oxygen concentrators and gas purification processes efficiently.
The functionality and importance of using zeolites in oxygen concentrators is their remarkable adsorption capabilities. In particular, zeolites are able to select molecules based on their size and affinity for adsorption.
Zeolites are crystalline, aluminosilicate materials that have a highly porous structure composed of channels and tunnel-like structures. The unique arrangement of silicon, aluminum, and oxygen atoms in the zeolite crystals creates a lattice-like structure that contains similar proportioned and regularly spaced pores.
When the air mixture is passed through the zeolite bed in the air concentrator, nitrogen molecules, which are larger than oxygen molecules, become selectively adsorbed within the zeolite pores due to their size, thus effectively separating the gases from the air, and you can easily purify oxygen from the surrounding air, off its impurities and contaminants.
The oxygen concentrator’s main purpose is to increase the amount of oxygen in the supplied air by adsorbing the nitrogen present in the incoming air stream. Zeolites are particularly good at adsorbing nitrogen, allowing oxygen to flow through and build up to higher concentrations.
In oxygen concentrators, zeolites are frequently used in pressure swing adsorption systems where zeolite is incorporated into two columns that alternate between the adsorption phase and the desorption phase. The adsorption phase occurs when nitrogen is adsorbed by one column and desorbed by another, resulting in a continuous flow of high-purity oxygen as the end product.