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    CSIR-NCL and BEL manufacture Oxygen Enrichment Unit useful in Covid-19 treatment

    Synopsis

    The technology has been licensed to NCL-start up GEnrich Membranes and the OEUs will be manufactured by Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL).

    Agencies
    With the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, CSIR-NCL applied for certification of a prototype OEU to TUV, Bangalore, which was found to be qualified.
    PUNE: Oxygen Enrichment Unit (OEU), developed by scientists from Polymer Science and Engineering Division of CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL), will help reduce the requirement of ventilators and oxygen cylinders in homecare, villages and remote places. The technology has been licensed to NCL-start up GEnrich Membranes and the OEUs will be manufactured by Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL).

    A release from NCL, Pune said, "Oxygen is required in higher concentration for oxygen therapy in hospitals. It can be as high as 90% (ICU, operation theatre), while for treating patients with lung diseases (COPD, asthma), 27-35 % oxygen is required in breathing air. Normal air has 21% oxygen content. Cryogenic technology at -200 °C and pressure swing adsorption to elevate oxygen content in the air are expensive making oxygen enrichment devices unaffordable."

    A team of scientists led by Ulhas Kharul, Head of the Polymer Science and Engineering Division of CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL) have demonstrated the use of hollow fiber membranes to enrich oxygen.

    "The Oxygen Enrichment Unit (OEU) developed by Kharul’s team is efficient in providing 35-40% oxygen concentration from air with an adjustable flow rate of 0.5-15 lit/min. Atmospheric air at 5-6 bar pressure is passed through the membrane cartridge wherein the oxygen preferentially permeates through the membrane, due to intrinsic higher sorption capacity of oxygen into the membrane matrix. The technology was licensed to NCL start-up, GEnrich Membranes. About 50 units were assembled and demonstrated in various forums, hospitals and primary health centres," the release said.

    With the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, CSIR-NCL applied for certification of a prototype OEU to TUV, Bangalore, which was found to be qualified. “Overcoming several hurdles right from material supply to availability of manpower, CSIR-NCL and GEnrich Membranes quickly assembled three units during the lockdown period,” said Kharul. Naidu Hospital at Pune is testing these units for treating mildly hypoxic Covid-19 patients for more than a month.

    CSIR-NCL has tied up with Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL), Pune for the manufacture of OEU along with GEnrich. K Rajendra, GM BEL said, “Looking at the emerging medical crisis, BEL took this project on war footing and manufactured 10 units in record time and that too with a skeletal workforce. BEL has plans to manufacture another 100 units and supply in hospitals to meet the critical requirement”.

    "Oxygen enrichment units have special significance in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Patient recovery can be faster with supplemental oxygen in early stages. It can reduce the number of patients who will need ventilators. Post-ventilator treatment patients can be served with this unit, thus reducing demand for oxygen cylinders. Its portability makes it convenient for using such units in home care, villages and remote places," the release from NCL said.
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