NASA’s breakthrough tech could help meet global oxygen shortages | News

Sadye Matula

Featuring a ceramic ion transport membrane, the sound-state gadget aims to deliver superior purity oxygen at superior strain. Crafted with no shifting pieces, the first prototype at present operates at a little scale (30-40 slpm – regular litre for every moment, 5-10 bar) and was developed mostly to recharge oxygen […]

Featuring a ceramic ion transport membrane, the sound-state gadget aims to deliver superior purity oxygen at superior strain. Crafted with no shifting pieces, the first prototype at present operates at a little scale (30-40 slpm – regular litre for every moment, 5-10 bar) and was developed mostly to recharge oxygen tanks for astronaut’s spacesuits. 

In a world-exceptional expose, Dr John C. Graf, Technological know-how Growth Lead for Lifetime Aid at NASA’s Johnson Area Center in Houston, Texas, reviewed the agency’s latest innovations in oxygen era technological know-how in the course of gasworld’s Clinical Gases Digital Occasion 2022 held these days, April 7th.


The Health-related-Ceramic Oxygen Generator or M-COG, NASA’s new style of oxygen generation procedure, is primarily based on a tried out and tested technique that has been applied in engineering labs for yrs. 

Graf stated that the new know-how may perhaps be applicating to supplying medical gasoline in areas of the environment where it’s presently tough to get that gasoline and, although NASA develops flight hardware, provided the chance to collaborate with associates, the company intends to deploy the technologies for health care systems. 

At the coronary heart of the M-COG is slim rock of a warm, stable material. 

“We use cerium oxide, but if you get the proper sort of sound content and you put it in a high temperature atmosphere, you place it in a hot oven and you place a straightforward DC potential across, hook it up like a battery circuit in an elementary university science good task,” he discussed. 

The electrical possible drives oxygen ions uncovered in the air on 1 aspect of the ceramic rock and pumps oxygen ions to the other aspect wherever they are collected. Presented the suitable engineering processes are followed, a system that Graf calls an oxygen engine is fashioned. 

“And so you can have a massive and efficient clinical oxygen generator which has just one relocating component. It is a processor blower,” he said. 

“The blower reminds me of the blower which is in the ceiling fan that attracts humidity out of my lavatory.” 

The blower then attracts very hot course of action air through the oxygen motor, the oxygen is stored in a tank and sent in NASA’s design. 

Capable of delivering oxygen at a nominal level of 34 standard litres per moment at a force of 4-8 bar, the gadget is somewhat power effective, employing just 2400 watts constantly. 

What is new about this tactic? 

The new M-COG technological know-how employs wafers. About the sizing and shape of a cell cellphone and 50 % as thick, these wafers are organised in a way that enables a collection of them be stacked. 

NASA's wafer technology

Graf stated, “We have a lot of surface area space in a little space and we hole the length involving just about every of the wafers so that it’s incredibly simple to blow air across all of individuals surfaces without the need of admirers working quite really hard.” 

Smaller ceramic washers are put all around small holes in the wafer, before oxygen is delivered into a modest porous layer in the inside of the wafer and then migrates to that central port.

If the wafers are lined up and then lined with a ring, the pipe that will come out at the top functions like a chimney. 

“These cell stacks deliver oxygen out of that pipe once again with no transferring pieces, which we believe will be sustainable and trusted and lengthy lasting.” 

NASA is constructing and creating about a cell stack consisting of 30 wafers with dimensions of 6 inches by 6 inches by 3 inches in dimensions. 

Cell stack

If the person would like four litres of oxygen, 1 of the cells presents the enough total of surface place to deliver that sum. 

“If you want 400 litres per minute, you will use extra of these mobile stacks and embed them into a common style and design,” said Graf. 

Approach heat is a essential ingredient to the electricity efficient mother nature of the style and design. The hotter the wafers are, the hotter the cell stacks are, the a lot more chemically economical they are, resulting in a lot less voltage being necessary to pump the oxygen. 

A capture-22 signifies that, the hotter the wafers are, the additional energy is commit heating incoming approach air, reducing the amount of money of vitality saved. 

“This technique allows the cells act in a collection,” exposed Graf. “So a single quantity of air is utilised to sweep air and supply oxygen to many mobile stacks. It heats the air, so when you acquire the depleted air that is coming out of the final stack, it is hotter than you started out with.” 

When set into a heat exchanger, the incoming air is preheated to the place wherever heaters could be removed completely, with only the intrinsic power needed for pumping oxygen. 

The over-all sizing of the prototype is about 2m lengthy and 1.6m tall, with the greater part of the house taken up by the heat exchanger. The style and design also possesses an exterior element that gets all of the oxygen ports and manages gasoline pressure regulation, gasoline sampling and routing. 

In addition to make the prototype system that provides 34 litres a moment at 100 psi, Graf uncovered that NASA is also designing and prototyping a two-stage system that can make oxygen capable of filling higher pressure cylinders. 

Two-phase program 

By integrating a new ceramic oxygen generator – or a 2nd phase, which is designed inside a pressure vessel in a ‘ship in a bottle style’, it is feasible to get lower force oxygen and pump it to substantial tension oxygen, building what is, in essence, a good point out oxygen compressor. 

It performs by the fuel tension being fed into the very first stage storage tank, which can supply up to 150 psi. When it is up to healthcare facility shipping stress – close to 100 psi – a valve can be opened, enroot oxygen through a tube up to the leading ahead of enrooting a 2nd valve, which enables oxygen to be fed into the within of a 2nd phase wafer. 

“Here the oxygen pumping is reversed, the oxygen will get electro-chemically pumped from the inside to the outside the house of the wafer,” mentioned Graf. 

“When you do that, high stress oxygen can be controlled and compressed to pressures up to 3000 psi.” 

The to start with stage configuration attracts air on the outdoors of the wafer and pumps small stress oxygen to the wafer before the next phase receives low tension oxygen on the inside of the water, pumps it to the outdoors, and – if it is within a strain vessel – that oxygen can accumulate and compress and access high pressures. 

What phase is NASA at? 

Graf unveiled that the agency is currently developing the chassis of the prototype process. As shortly as the chassis is crafted, the group will perform preliminary engineering testing, the effects of which will be printed ‘as quickly as practically probable.’

Chassis 2

While the primary intention is to use the technology to recharge oxygen tanks in astronaut spacesuits, NASA recognises the probability for it to benefit hospitals that deficiency responsible access to oxygen. 

To progress the prospective for its medical software, Graf invites these fascinated in a probable partnership to see the chassis and its technological parts pretty much or physically. 

“We prepare on showing notional styles of larger sized and more compact scale methods to enable train the technological innovation and assist partners who are interested in different sized techniques find out how they might be capable to choose these ceramic cell stacks and use them for the profit of other apps,” he extra. 

Concluding, Graf claimed, “In summary, we’re setting up a ceramic oxygen generator and we’re browsing for companions and collaborators.” 

“We recognise that NASA can do some sections of this job, we can create technologies but we never have a opportunity to create units for hospitals. If there are people today who are involved in that area, stand out and glance for a request for details.” 

“As soon as the NASA internal authorized processes get the job done out, we’ll be releasing that.”

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