CECA Molecular Sieves: New Technological Solutions
The development of medical oxygen concentrators for home use is providing new outlets for the molecular sieve market. CECA’s R&D department is offering customers ever more innovative products while working to reduce their size.
Having a source of oxygen-enriched air within reach is vital for many people suffering from respiratory insufficiency. As smoking, pollution and the general aging of the population take their toll, demand is growing for equipment that can produce this life-giving gas. Home oxygen concentrators take in ambient air and release a flow of oxygen that is more than 90% pure. They do that by using molecular sieves, which are a specialty of our teams at the Lacq Research Center (GRL). A porous material called zeolite separates the various gases in the air. A combination of silica and aluminum arranged in a crystal lattice, zeolite traps nitrogen molecules in its nanometer-sized cavities and lets oxygen molecules through.
Intensive Research and Development
CECA’s R&D teams are leveraging years of experience to develop new grades of sieves for these emerging applications.
Two Products on the Market
Used in home oxygen concentrators, the first product has been marketed since 2000 under the name Siliporite® Nitroxy 5. CECA introduced the even more sophisticated Siliporite® Nitroxy 51 in 2003. This next-generation sieve offers greater adsorption capacity and enhanced selectivity, trapping six times more nitrogen than oxygen, compared to a ratio of three to one for Siliporite® Nitroxy 5.
Compact and Portable
Eventually, patients will have fully portable units, but today’s devices are still bulky and somewhat cumbersome. They weigh an average of 20 kilograms, with the zeolite beads accounting for two. Future concentrators will also be quieter and more energy efficient. Arkema’s R&D department is continuing its push to innovate in response to customer demand.
The medical profession won’t be the only one to benefit from these technological advances. For example, fighter pilots are another possibility. On a less serious, trendier note, oxygen concentrators are also proving popular with a new type of bar, which dispenses puffs of scented oxygen to customers. The spearhead market is Japan, where the first wave of consumers can inhale their daily 10-minute dose of oxygen in the latest hip venue.