How oxygen concentrators work

What is an oxygen concentrator?

Oxygen Concentrator

An oxygen concentrator is a medical device that concentrates oxygen by using a gas supply to filter nitrogen from surrounding ambient air.  It then compresses it so that it is dense enough. The purified medical grade oxygen is then supplied by means of a pulse-dose delivery or continuous system to the patient.


It is used for supplying oxygen to individuals with breathing-related disorders, difficulties or with a below-normal oxygen concentration in their blood. Oxygen needs to be replaced often for these individuals. Normally, the output of the oxygen concentrator is measured in LPM (litres per minute). The patient’s doctor will need to determine the correct level needed which will differ when resting, sleeping and exercising.

Medical oxygen concentrators

Medical oxygen concentrators for home use were invented in the early 1970’s. Before then, cumbersome and heavy high pressure oxygen cylinders or small cryogenic liquid oxygen systems were used for home medical oxygen therapy. In the 1950’s, The Union Carbide Corporation invented the molecular sieve which made these devices possible as well as the first cryogenic liquid home medical oxygen systems in invented by them in the 1960’s.


Both systems required regular home visits by suppliers to replenish oxygen supplies. Due to lower manufacturing costs, the durable medical equipment (DME) industry quickly welcomed concentrators as an effective way to control costs. Oxygen concentrators for home use have became the preferred and most common used means of supplying home oxygen to individuals.

Oxygen concentrators

Oxygen concentrators are not available over the counter as it must be prescribed by a doctor after a full medical evaluation has been done. Patients are also then shown how to use these concentrators while travelling and in their home by the same doctor.


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