Two views of the M19O2 oxygen concentrator

Design Improvements Make DIY Oxygen Concentrator Even Better

A lot of projects we feature on these pages are of the “one and done” variety — tactical builds that serve a specific purpose with little need for further development. Some projects, though, come out as rough prototypes and then go through multiple rounds of refinement, a process we really enjoy tracking down and following. And when the project is something as important as an oxygen concentrator that can be built and maintained easily, all the better.

The need for cheap oxygen concentrators stems directly from the COVID-19 pandemic, which suggested that high-flow oxygen therapy was a better choice than invasive intubations and mechanical ventilation. But medical-grade oxygen isn’t always easy to come by in all parts of the world, so easily built oxygen concentrators, which rely on the nitrogen-adsorbing properties of the mineral zeolite, are meant to fill the gaps. Early versions of the M19O2 and the related OxyKit concentrator, had a very homebrew feel to them, built on wooden frames as they were. And while the rustic nature of the early builds didn’t detract from their utility, the hackers behind them, including our own [Anool Mahidharia], have been making incremental improvements aimed at not only making the devices work better, but also making them easier to build.

The hackers at Maker’s Asylum have done a fantastic job at documenting their work, with everything posted to a GitHub repo so that anyone can undertake a build. And really, for something as important as making oxygen when it’s needed, there’s really no reason not to give this a try.

Building An Oxygen Concentrator: It Isn’t Rocket Science

Back at the start of the pandemic, a variety of hacker designs for life-saving machinery may have pushed the boundaries of patient safety. There are good reasons that a ventilator must pass extensive safety  testing and certification before it can be attached to a patient, because were it to in some way fail, the patient would die. A year later, we have many much safer and more realistic ways to use our skills as part of the effort.

Probably one of the most ambitious projects comes from a coalition of Indian hackerspaces who are adapting a proven oxygen concentrator for local manufacture. Among them is Hackaday’s own [Anool Mahidharia], who hosts a Maker’s Asylum video (embedded below) explaining how the oxygen concentrator works and how they can be made safely.

The team have proven their ability in manufacturing over the past year, here showing off the M19 motorised air purifying respirator.
The team have proven their ability in manufacturing over the past year, here showing off the M19 motorised air purifying respirator.

An oxygen concentrator is both surprisingly simple and imbued with a touch of magic. At its center are two columns of zeolite, a highly porous aluminosilicate mineral that performs the task of a molecular sieve. When air is pumped into the column, the zeolite traps nitrogen, leaving the oxygen-enriched remnant to be supplied onwards. There are two such columns to allow each to be on an alternate cycle of enrichment or purging to remove the accumulated nitrogen.

The point of the video is to show that such a device can be constructed from readily available parts and with common tools; as the title says it isn’t rocket science. Concentrators produced by the hackerspace coalition won’t save the world on their own, but as a part of the combined effort they can provide a useful and reliable source of oxygen that will make a significant difference in a country whose oxygen distribution network is under severe strain.

We previously covered the Indian oxygen concentrator effort when they launched the project. Their website can be found on the Maker’s Asylum website, and their crowdfunding campaign can be found on the Indian crowdfunding platform, Ketto. They have already proved their ability to coordinate large-scale manufacturing with their previous PPE and respirator projects, so please consider supporting them if you can. Meanwhile, we can’t help a twinge of space envy, from the fleeting glimpse of Maker’s Asylum in the video.

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Open-Source Oxygen Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, May 5 at noon Pacific for the Open-Source Oxygen Hack Chat with Maher Daoudi and the OxiKit Team!

In such tumultuous times, it may be hard to remember last week, let alone last year. But if you dig back a bit, you may recall what a panic the world was in at this point in 2020 about the ventilator crisis. With COVID-19 cases on the rise and the potential for great numbers of patients needing intensive care, everyone and their brother was hacking together makeshift ventilators, in the well-intentioned belief that their inventions would help relieve the coming shortage of these lifesaving medical mechanical miracles.

As it came to pass, though, more COVID-19 patients have benefited from high-flow oxygen therapy than from mechanical ventilation. That’s great news in places where medical oxygen is cheap and easily available, but that’s always the case. We’ve seen recent reports of hospitals in India running out of oxygen, and even rural and remote areas of the developed world can find themselves caught without enough of the vital gas.

To meet the world’s increasing demand for high-flow oxygen therapy, the team at OxiKit has developed an open-source oxygen concentrator that can be built for far less than what commercial concentrators cost. By filtering the nitrogen out of the air, the concentrator provides oxygen at 90% or higher purity, at a flow of up to 25 liters per minute.

Oxikit founder Maher Daoudi and some of the technical team will join us for this Hack Chat to discuss the details of making oxygen concentrators. We’ll learn about how they work, what the design process for their current concentrator was like, and how they got past the obstacles and delivered on the promise of high-flow oxygen for the masses.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, May 5 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
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Indian Makers Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic By Producing Oxygen Concentrators

We’ve all spent the last year or more under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, and though some of us may have been vaccinated or come through its various waves it remains far from over. One of the hardest-hit parts of the world at the moment is in India, where health services are struggling to maintain adequate oxygen supply such is the demand for it from sick patients.

India’s hacker and maker community have risen to the challenge and done their bit to supply needed resources, and fresh from last year’s PPE manufacturing efforts a group from the Makers Asylum hackerspace in Goa have launched upon a fresh challenge. They aim to start producing the established open-source OxiKit oxygen concentrator in the Indian hackerspace community using locally manufactured parts, and they’ve launched a crowdfunding effort to cover their development, prototyping, and certification work.

The oxygen concentrator project builds on Makers Asylum’s experience last year as part of an extremely successful network of makerspaces producing PPE, which demonstrates that they have the resources, logistics, and ability to take on a project of this size. The OxiKit is no hare-brained contraption but an established and successful design that is already at work, so we believe that this project has a good chance of success. It’s close to home for Hackaday too, and one of the people involved with it is our colleague [Anool Mahidharia].

In a global pandemic only a global response can overcome the incredible challenges before us. For that reason we’d like to urge you to take a look at the Makers Asylum page wherever you are, and if you can, support it.

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A Simple But Effective High-Flow Oxygen Concentrator From Hardware Store Parts

To say that a lot has happened in the year since the COVID-19 pandemic started is an understatement of epic proportions, so much so that it may be hard to remember how the hardware hacking community responded during those early days, with mass-produced PPE, homebrew ventilators and the like. But we don’t recall seeing too many attempts to build something like this DIY oxygen concentrator during that initial build-out phase.

Given the simplicity and efficacy of the design, dubbed OxiKit, it seems strange that we didn’t see more of these devices. OxiKit uses zeolite, a porous mineral that can be used as a molecular sieve. The tiny beads are packed into columns made from hardware store PVC pipes and fittings and connected to an oil-less air compressor through some solenoid-controlled pneumatic valves. After being cooled in a coil of copper pipe, the compressed air is forced through one zeolite column, which preferentially retains the nitrogen while letting the oxygen pass through. The oxygen stream is split, with part going into a buffer tank and part going into the outlet of the second zeolite column, where it forces the adsorbed nitrogen to be released. An Arduino controls the valves that alternate the gas flow back and forth, resulting in 15 liters per minute of 96% pure oxygen.

OxiKit isn’t optimized as a commercial oxygen concentrator is, so it’s not particularly quiet. But it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a commercial unit, and an easy build for most hackers. OxiKit’s designs are all open source, but they do sell kits and some of the harder-to-source parts and supplies, like the zeolite. We’d be tempted to build something like this just because the technology is so neat; having a source of high-flow oxygen available isn’t a bad idea, either.

Got Oxygen? Future Mars Missions Are Relying On The MOXIE Of Perseverance

The rule of thumb with planetary exploration so far has been, “What goes up, stays up.” With the exception of the Moon and a precious few sample return missions to asteroids and comets, once a spacecraft heads out, it’s never seen again, either permanently plying the void of interplanetary or interstellar space, or living out eternity on the surface of some planet, whether as a monument to the successful mission that got it there or the twisted wreckage of a good attempt.

At the risk of jinxing things, all signs point to us getting the trip to Mars reduced to practice, which makes a crewed mission to Mars something that can start turning from a dream to a plan. But despite what some hardcore Martian-wannabees say, pretty much everyone who goes to Mars is going to want to at least have the option of returning, and the logistical problems with that are legion. Chief among them will be the need for propellants to make the return trip. Lugging them from Earth would be difficult, to say the least, but if an instrument the size of a car battery that hitched a ride to Mars on Perseverance has anything to say about it, future astronauts might just be making their own propellants, literally pulling them out of thin air.

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DIY 250 Lb Thrust Liquid Oxygen/Kerosene Rocket

Robert’s Rocket Project has been going on for a long time. It has been around so long that you can go all the way back to posts from 2001, where he talks about getting his first digital camera! The site is dedicated to his pursuit of liquid fueled rocket engine building. It’s a great project log and he has finally come to the point where he will be testing his first flight vehicle soon.

His latest project is a 250lbf regeneratively cooled engine. It uses kerosene as the fuel, and liquid oxygen as the oxidizer. The neat thing is he utilizes the temperature change of the liquid oxygen expanding to cool the chamber and nozzle before being burned. This allows for a very efficient and powerful combustion of the fuel. He has some videos of testing it on his site, we just wonder why he doesn’t host them on YouTube or something…

Anyhow, there’s more than enough info on his site to try and recreate some of his experiments, but perhaps you should start here instead: How to Design, Build and Test Small Liquid-Fuel Rocket Engines.

[Thanks Ray!]