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Air India starts airlifting ‘Zeolite’ to ramp up medical oxygen production

To augment the production of oxygen in the country, national carrier Air India has started first of its kind ‘zeolite cargo flights’ as a part of the process of importing zeolite, which is a key component in oxygen production, from across the globe.

The project is in line with Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to set up the medical oxygen plants.

The first flight carrying zeolite has already flown from Rome and is scheduled to land in Bangalore today. Between May 15 to May 18, a total of seven charter flights have been scheduled from Rome to Bangalore. The flag carrier airline will also be flying in zeolite from eight charter flights from South Korea to Bangalore, between May 19 to 22.

Further, the next round of AIR India flights will carry zeolite from Newark (USA) to India between 20 to 25 May. This will be followed by the next phase of zeolite cargo flights from Brussels, Tokyo and again from the US in the coming weeks.

What is Zeolite and why is it important for medical oxygen production?

Considered as the heart of an oxygen concentrator, Zeolite composes molecular sieve that is a microporous crystalline solid of aluminium silicate, having small openings which allows tiny molecules to pass through it while blocking the large ones. Atmospheric air has 78 per cent nitrogen and nearly 20 per cent oxygen, zeolite traps nitrogen onto its surface and leaves highly purified oxygen and up to 5 per cent argon.

Zeolite is used in the Medical Oxygen Plant (MOP) technology, developed by DRDO for on‐board oxygen generation on aircraft like Tejas. The technology is now put into use to produce medical oxygen for the treatment of COVID patients.

According to an official statement by the Ministry of Defence,” Medical Oxygen Plant (MOP) technology is capable of generating oxygen with 93±3% concentration which can be supplied directly to hospital beds or to refill medical oxygen cylinders. MOP is designed for a capacity of 1,000 litres per minute (LPM), which can cater to 190 patients and charge 195 cylinders per day. The oxygen plant utilizes Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technique and Molecular Sieve (Zeolite) technology to generate oxygen directly from atmospheric air.”

DRDO to set up 500 Medical Oxygen Plants

DRDO has started the fabrication of 380 Medical Oxygen Plants with Transfer of Technology has been done to M/s Tata Advanced Systems Limited, Bengaluru and M/s Trident Pneumatics Pvt. Ltd., Coimbatore, for the installation of these plants across the country.

120 plants of 500 LPM capacity will be produced by industries working with the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, belonging to CSIR under PM CARES Fund. With this, DRDO excepts to install 500 Medical Oxygen Plants within three months.

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