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First Air India flight ferrying ‘Zeolite’ for DRDO to reach Bengaluru on Sunday

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As hospitals across the nation battle to keep down the fatalities caused due to the shortage of oxygen, Air India has begun transporting ‘zeolite’, an essential component in the innovative technology developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for oxygen generation from countries across the world.

As per an Air India official, the first consignment of zeolite will fly in from Rome to Bengaluru on Saturday evening.

According to an announcement made on April 28, 2021, Air India in the coming days will operate over 15 flights to import zeolite from countries across the world. The government expects 500 Medical Oxygen Plants (MOP), using the DRDO technology, to be installed within three months.

“DRDO has been appointed by GOI as charterer for these zeolite consignments. A total of seven charter flights have been scheduled between 15 and 18 May, from Rome to Bangalore,’’ said an Air India official.

“This will be followed by 8 charter flights from Korea to Bangalore, between 19 and 22 May. Further, we have uplift from the US through our existing scheduled flights from Newark between 20 and 25 May,’’ the official informed adding that the next phase of this exercise zeolite will be flown in from Brussels, Tokyo and again from the US, in the later weeks.

Zeolite, also known as a molecular sieve is a microporous crystalline solid of aluminum silicate that has small openings of fixed size to trap large molecules while allowing small molecules to pass through. Atmospheric air contains 78 % nitrogen and about 20 % oxygen and zeolite adsorbs or traps nitrogen onto its surface.

It is used in the Medical Oxygen Plant (MOP) technology, developed by DRDO for on‐board oxygen generation on aircraft like Tejas. The same technology will be now used to generate oxygen for medical purposes.

The MOP technology will be useful to provide oxygen supply during the pandemic in hospitals in urban and rural areas. Hospitals will be able to generate on-site medical oxygen, cost-effectively with this oxygen plant rather than depending upon sourcing it from other places.”

~ A press release issued from the Indian government on April 28

Furthermore, the release said, the Medical Oxygen Plant (MOP) technology is capable of generating oxygen with 93±3% concentration which can be directly supplied to hospital beds or can be used to fill medical oxygen cylinders.

The said oxygen plant is designed for a capacity of 1,000 liters per minute (LPM), that is, the system can cater to 190 patients and charge 195 cylinders per day, said the release.

The MOP utilizes the Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technique and Molecular Sieve (Zeolite) technology to generate oxygen directly from atmospheric air.

“Transfer of Technology has been done to Tata Advanced Systems Limited, Bengaluru and Trident Pneumatics Pvt. Ltd., Coimbatore, who will be producing 380 plants for installation across various hospitals in the country. 120 plants of 500 Litres per minute (LPM) capacity will be produced by industries working with the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, belonging to CSIR,” said the release.

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