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.

Reminder: Bring-A-Hack Is This Thursday August 5th

Hey you! What have you been working on lately? No, wait, don’t tell us just yet! Save the juicy details for the summer edition of Bring-A-Hack. It’s going down in just two days — that’s Thursday, August 5th at 1:00 PM Pacific Daylight time (4pm EDT | 9pm BST/CET). Go register right now!

Historically, Hackaday has attended (or hosted) Bring-a-Hack events as a social activity along with live conference. You grab something off your bench and it gives you a thing to talk about as you see friends old and new. This virtual Bring-a-Hack walks in those footprints — anyone who wants to present their to the group can just type ‘I would like to present’ in the Crowdcast chat once the event gets under way. We also plan to have breakout rooms for more interaction.

If you were too shy to show off one of your projects at the last one of these back in April, now is your chance! Are you building something for the Hackaday Prize? What have you done to make working from home more tolerable? Whatever you’re into, we want to see it, so come and show it off to the hacker elite from around the world. And just because they’re elite, it doesn’t mean they’re elitist: it doesn’t matter what level your project is on. What matters is that you’re passionate about it, and that you probably learned something along the way — something you can share with the community that will bring you many virtual pats on the back.

So go and get registered, shine up those hacks, and we’ll see you there!

No Mask Required: Bring-A-Hack Is Back August 5th

Yes, we’re still in a pandemic and yes, these types of events are still happening over videoconference and not in meat space. But you know what? That means that so many more people have the opportunity to show up and show off their hacks! As long as 1 PM PDT is within your personal uptime, that is. Maybe you can make an exception if not?

Here is your link: the summer edition of Bring a Hack with Tindie and Hackaday will take place on Thursday, August 5th at 1:00 PM Pacific Daylight time (that’s 4pm EDT | 9pm BST/CET). Choose your gnarliest hack of late and go register for the event, which will be held on the Crowdcast video chat platform this time around.

The remote Bring-A-Hack held way back in April was packed with awesome people. Now is your chance to join in! You all have awesome projects from the last few months (we’ve seen a lot of them on these very pages), so come show them off to the hacker elite from around the globe. You know the deal: it really doesn’t matter what level your project is on, so don’t worry about that. As long as you’re passionate about it, we’d love to see it and hear all about the problems you had to overcome and yes, even the mistakes you made. You never know what knowledge you might have that can push someone else’s project over the finish line.

Shine up your hacks, and mark those calendars; here’s a timezone converter if you need it. Reserve your spot now. Seriously, don’t fool yourself into thinking your build isn’t impressive enough — we want to see it. My hack might not even involve a circuit, and that’s enough to pique your interest, right? See you there!

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.
Continue reading “Open-Source Oxygen Hack Chat”

Bring A Hack Is Back This Thursday!

As the pandemic edges further into its second year, the tedium of life under lockdown is taking its toll. We may be fighting the spread of infection by staying home and having our meetings over video conferencing software, but it’s hellishly boring! What we wouldn’t do for our hackerspaces to be open, and for the chance to hang out and chew the fat about our lockdown projects!

Here at Hackaday we can bring some needed relief in the form of the Hackaday Remote: Bring-A-Hack held via Zoom on Thursday, April 8th, at 1pm Pacific time. We know you’ve been working hard over the last year, and since you’ve been denied the chance to share those projects in person, we know you just can’t wait to sign up. Last year’s Remoticon showed us the value of community get-togethers online, with both the team soldering challenge rounds and the bring-a-hack being particular event highlights, so it’s time for a fresh dose to keep up our spirits.

It doesn’t matter how large or small your project is, if it interests you other readers will also want to see it. Be prepared to tell the world how you made it, what problems you solved, and a bit about yourself, and then step back, take a bow, and be showered with virtual roses from the adoring masses. There’s a sign-up link if you have a project to show off Looks like we’re full up for planned presenations, but still come and bring your hacks for showing in conversation groups. Don’t hold back if you’re worried it’s not impressive enough, a certain Hackaday scribe has submitted an OpenSCAD library she’s working on.

The First Hacker Camp To Show Up On Google Maps

Our summer gatherings at hacker camps are fleeting and ephemeral, anticipated for months but over far too quickly. Afterwards we have only our memories, and perhaps the occasional Hackaday write-up. We think BornHack 2020 in Denmark was the only hacker camp that wasn’t forced to go online-only by the pandemic last year, and now as far as we know it has also become the only one ever that has left its mark for the wider world by being captured for posterity by Google Earth.

Visible in the forest is the sparsely populated and socially distanced main field of what was a considerably smaller camp than normal, as well as in separate clearings the speakers tent and the loud field. Perhaps it doesn’t help as much in explaining to outsiders what a hacker camp is as might a picture of one of the larger ones, but it does at least serve as a visible reminder that we weren’t quite snuffed out last year.

It’s a moment of nostalgia to see BornHack 2020 on Google Maps for those of us who were there, but perhaps the point of all this is to take a moment to consider the likely prospects for similar events in 2021 given the pandemic. Both the British EMF Camp and American Toorcamp had to cancel their events last year and should return in 2022, there’s no word as yet about 2021 from the Serbian BalCCon or the Italian IHC,  our latest update on Luxembourg’s HaxoGreen is that it’s still slated to go ahead with its move to 2021, and currently both BornHack and the Dutch MCH are expecting to run as normal this summer.

In the grip of a savage third wave of the pandemic where this is being written, it’s by no means a foregone conclusion that 2020’s cancellations may not repeat themselves. International borders remain difficult to cross without exacting quarantine requirements. If you make it to a camp this year you may be one of the lucky few, and in the increasingly likely event that we don’t, we’ll be suitably envious. Don’t loose hope, we shall all meet again… eventually.

If you fancy a closer look at BornHack 2020, have a read of our write-up.

How Researchers Used Salt To Give Masks An Edge Against Pathogens

Masks are proven tools against airborne diseases, but pathogens — like the COVID-19 virus — can collect in a mask and survive which complicates handling and disposal. [Ilaria Rubino], a researcher at the University of Alberta, recently received an award for her work showing how treating a mask’s main filtration layer with a solution of mostly salt and water (plus a surfactant to help the wetting process) can help a mask inactivate pathogens on contact, thereby making masks potentially re-usable. Such masks are usually intended as single-use, and in clinical settings used masks are handled and disposed of as biohazard waste, because they can contain active pathogens. This salt treatment gives a mask a kind of self-cleaning ability.

Analysis showing homogenous salt coating (red and green) on the surface of fibers. NaCl is shown here, but other salts work as well.

How exactly does salt help? The very fine salt coating deposited on the fibers of a mask’s filtration layer first dissolves on contact with airborne pathogens, then undergoes evaporation-induced recrystallization. Pathogens caught in the filter are therefore exposed to an increasingly-high concentration saline solution and are then physically damaged. There is a bit of a trick to getting the salt deposited evenly on the polypropylene filter fibers, since the synthetic fibers are naturally hydrophobic, but a wetting process takes care of that.

The salt coating on the fibers is very fine, doesn’t affect breathability of the mask, and has been shown to be effective even in harsh environments. The research paper states that “salt coatings retained the pathogen inactivation capability at harsh environmental conditions (37 °C and a relative humidity of 70%, 80% and 90%).”

Again, the salt treatment doesn’t affect the mask’s ability to filter pathogens, but it does inactivate trapped pathogens, giving masks a kind of self-cleaning ability. Interested in the nuts and bolts of how researchers created the salt-treated filters? The Methods section of the paper linked at the head of this post (as well as the Methods section in this earlier paper on the same topic) has all the ingredients, part numbers, and measurements. While you’re at it, maybe brush up on commercially-available masks and what’s inside them.