Design of a two-step pulsed pressure-swing adsorption-based oxygen concentrator



A two-step pulsed pressure-swing adsorption (PPSA) process has been modeled to assess the extent to which an oxygen concentrator might be miniaturized for medical applications. The process consists of a single bed of packed adsorbent particles that is alternately pressurized and depressurized at the feed end. An enriched oxygen product is withdrawn at ambient pressure from the product end when the bed is pressurized at the feed end. The product end remains closed during depressurization. The model development addresses the manner in which axial dispersion enters into the describing equations and the formulation of proper boundary conditions, both of which have not been handled rigorously in some prior modeling studies. The describing equations are solved using COMSOL® Multiphysics software. The effect on the performance of the adsorption time, desorption time, bed length, particle diameter, and imposed pressure drop across the bed have been investigated. An interesting novel result is that for a chosen particle size, bed length, and applied pressure drop, there is an optimum combination of adsorption and desorption times that maximizes the product purity. The results suggest that there are operating windows for both 5A and partially Ag-exchanged Li-substituted 13X zeolite adsorbents wherein the product oxygen purity is greater than 90%. At a given product flow rate within this operating window, the extent of miniaturization is limited by the (maximum) cycling frequency that is practically achievable. Sizing of an oxygen concentrator for personal medical applications is also discussed. A principal conclusion is that a compact oxygen concentrator capable of producing a highly oxygen-enriched product is possible using commercially available adsorbents and implementable operating conditions. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2010