What is an Oxygen Generator? A Comprehensive Overview

Discover the ins and outs of oxygen generators with our comprehensive guide. Click here to learn how they work, their benefits, and more.

Last Updated on March 18, 2024 by Ossian Muscad

Oxygen generators have revolutionized the way we access and utilize oxygen, particularly in medical and industrial settings. These devices are designed to extract oxygen from the air, concentrating it for use in various applications. From supporting patients with respiratory issues to enhancing the efficiency of combustion processes in industries, the importance of oxygen generators cannot be overstated. This article aims to shed light on the workings, benefits, and applications of oxygen generators, providing essential knowledge for anyone looking to understand this crucial technology.


What is an Oxygen Generator?

An oxygen generator is a device that uses the principle of pressure swing adsorption (PSA) or other technologies, such as membrane filtration, to separate oxygen from other gasses in the ambient air. Essentially, air is drawn into the generator and compressed, where it is then passed through a molecular sieve or membrane. This sieve or membrane selectively adsorbs nitrogen and other gasses at high pressure but allows oxygen to pass through. 

Once the adsorption process reaches its capacity, the pressure is reduced, allowing the adsorbed gasses to be desorbed and expelled as waste. The pure oxygen that is collected is then available for use. This process allows oxygen generators to produce oxygen with purities up to 95%, supporting a wide range of applications from medical oxygen for hospitals and clinics to oxygen for welding and cutting processes in industrial settings.


How Does an Oxygen Generator Work?

Air is made up of 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen. The remaining 1% goes to other gasses such as Argon and Carbon Dioxide. An Oxygen Generator works by separating oxygen from this mixture. Initially, ambient air is compressed and introduced into a chamber containing a molecular sieve, typically composed of zeolites that preferentially adsorb nitrogen.

While the sieve traps the nitrogen due to its larger molecular size, oxygen and other smaller molecules pass through and are collected in a separate storage tank. The cycle is then reversed, reducing the pressure and allowing the adsorbed nitrogen to be released back into the atmosphere as waste gas.

This cyclical process ensures a continuous supply of purified oxygen. By manipulating pressures and using specialized filters, oxygen generators can achieve high levels of purity, making the oxygen suitable for both medical applications, where high purity is crucial for patient health, and industrial use, where oxygen enhanced combustion efficiency.


Features of an Oxygen Generator

Oxygen generators are equipped with several key features that enable their functionality and efficiency in producing high-purity oxygen. From drawing in air to delivering purified oxygen, each component plays a critical role in the overall process. Below are the essential features of oxygen generators, elaborated with accurate and factual details:

  1. Air Intake: This feature allows ambient air to enter the oxygen generator. It serves as the initial step in the oxygen production process, drawing in the air that will eventually be separated into oxygen and other gasses.
  2. Filtration: Before the air can be processed, it must be cleaned of impurities. Filtration systems remove dust, particles, and other contaminants from the air, preparing it for further processing.
  3. Compression: Air compression is essential for the pressure swing adsorption process to work effectively. Compressing the air increases its pressure, facilitating the separation of oxygen from nitrogen when passed through the molecular sieve.
  4. Separation: This is where the core technology of the oxygen generator comes into play. Using either pressure swing adsorption (PSA) or membrane filtration, oxygen is separated from other gasses such as nitrogen. The specific method and materials used for separation can vary depending on the design of the oxygen generator.
  5. Oxygen Collection: After separation, the pure oxygen is collected in a storage system within the generator, making it ready for use.
  6. Delivery: Oxygen generators are designed with systems to deliver the produced oxygen to the point of use. This can include pipelines for industrial applications or oxygen outlets for medical settings.
  7. Continuous Operation: Designed for efficiency and reliability, oxygen generators can operate continuously, ensuring a consistent supply of oxygen. This is facilitated by the cyclic nature of the PSA process or the continuous flow in membrane technology, allowing for unattended operation over extended periods.


Oxygen Generator Vs. Oxygen Concentrator: What’s the Difference?

Oxygen Generators and Oxygen Concentrators serve the crucial purpose of supplying oxygen, but they differ significantly in scale, application, and technology. They are primarily used in industrial settings due to their capacity for large-scale oxygen production. Their robust design and efficiency make them suitable for applications that demand a continuous, high-volume supply of oxygen, such as manufacturing processes, water treatment, and large medical facilities. The PSA process allows Oxygen Generators to efficiently produce oxygen by filtering nitrogen and other gasses from the air, an operation suited for environments where a dependable source of oxygen is essential for ongoing operations.

On the other hand, Oxygen Concentrators are designed for medical use, providing a portable or stationary source of oxygen for individuals requiring enhanced oxygen levels for therapeutic benefits. These devices are considerably smaller than their industrial counterparts and work by drawing in room air, removing nitrogen through a filter or membrane, and delivering concentrated oxygen, typically around 90-95% purity, directly to the user via a nasal cannula or mask.

Unlike Oxygen Generators, which are built for continuous operation and high output, Oxygen Concentrators are tailored for individual use. They offer a compact, low-maintenance alternative to traditional oxygen tanks. Their portability and ease of use make them especially beneficial for patients with chronic respiratory conditions who lead active lifestyles, allowing for enhanced mobility without the need for frequent refills or replacements.


Types of Oxygen Generators

Oxygen generators are categorized based on the technology they use to separate oxygen from the air. Each is suited to specific applications across a wide range of industries. The main types include Pressure Swing Adsorption Oxygen Generators, Membrane Oxygen Generators, and Chemical Oxygen Generators, each boasting unique features and benefits. Understanding these differences is crucial for selecting the most appropriate type for a particular need or application.

Pressure Swing Adsorption Oxygen Generator

Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) Oxygen Generators leverage a technology that uses a molecular sieve to absorb nitrogen from the air under high pressure, isolating oxygen as the primary product. These generators are known for their efficiency, producing high-purity oxygen, typically up to 95% or higher, making them ideal for medical and industrial applications that require high-quality oxygen. The PSA process is highly reliable and can be designed to offer a continuous supply of oxygen, catering to demands ranging from small-scale laboratory settings to large-scale industrial environments.

Membrane Oxygen Generator

Membrane Oxygen Generators operate by passing air through a selectively permeable membrane, which differentiates gasses based on their molecular size and solubility. Oxygen passes through the membrane more easily than nitrogen, allowing for the collection of enriched oxygen on the permeate side. This type of generator is valued for its simplicity, lower energy consumption, and lower maintenance requirements, making it suitable for applications where slightly lower oxygen purity (typically 30-40%) is acceptable.

Chemical Oxygen Generator

Chemical Oxygen Generators produce oxygen through a chemical reaction that releases oxygen from a chemical compound. They do not require electricity to operate, making them indispensable in situations where power is unavailable, such as underwater or in emergency life-support systems in aircraft and submarines. The oxygen purity produced by chemical generators can be very high, but they are generally used for short-term applications due to the finite amount of chemical source material and the need to replace or replenish it after use.


Different Uses of Oxygen Generators

Oxygen generators play a critical role in various industries, providing essential support in processes and environments where high-purity oxygen is a necessity. These versatile devices cater to a broad spectrum of applications, from healthcare to heavy manufacturing. Here’s an in-depth look at some of the primary uses of oxygen generators across different sectors:

  • Bulk Medical Grade Oxygen: Widely utilized in hospitals and medical facilities, bulk medical grade oxygen plays a crucial role in providing life-supporting oxygen to patients with respiratory issues. These generators ensure a continuous, reliable supply of high-purity oxygen, which is essential for emergencies, surgeries, and overall patient care, significantly impacting healthcare outcomes.
  • Fish Farms and Aquaculture: Oxygen generators enhance the oxygen levels in water, fostering a healthier environment for fish and other aquatic organisms. This optimization leads to more robust growth and better yields, playing a key role in ensuring the well-being of aquatic species in controlled farming environments. It ultimately contributes to sustainable aquaculture practices.
  • Glass Blowing: Utilizing high-purity oxygen from generators in glass-blowing processes significantly enhances the efficiency of burners, resulting in cleaner, more precise, and controllable flame temperatures. This enhancement directly impacts the quality and craftsmanship of glass products, allowing for intricate designs and improved production processes in the art of glass blowing.
  • Gold Mining: Oxygen generators are pivotal in gold recovery processes like cyanidation, where they are employed to increase oxygen concentration in leaching solutions. This boost in oxygen levels enhances the gold yield from the ore, facilitating a more efficient and environmentally friendly extraction process that is vital for sustainable mining practices and responsible resource management.
  • Portable Breathing Oxygen: Portable oxygen generators play a critical role in providing oxygen therapy to individuals with respiratory conditions, enabling them to lead active lifestyles with access to oxygen therapy on the go. These compact devices are essential tools that significantly improve the quality of life for users, allowing for greater mobility and independence in managing respiratory health effectively.
  • Pulp and Paper Manufacturing: Oxygen generators are integrated into pulp bleaching and wastewater treatment processes within the pulp and paper industry to enhance production efficiency and environmental sustainability. The introduction of high-purity oxygen in these processes leads to higher-quality products and reduced environmental impact, contributing to more sustainable practices in the pulp and paper manufacturing sector.
  • Sewage and Waste Water Treatment: Oxygen generators play a vital role in wastewater treatment facilities by increasing oxygen levels to accelerate the breakdown of organic matter by aerobic bacteria. This acceleration results in cleaner effluent, reduced odor, and a more efficient treatment process, highlighting the critical role of oxygen generators in promoting effective sewage and wastewater treatment solutions.
  • Steel Industry: Oxygen generators are indispensable in the steel manufacturing process for combustion, oxidation, and optimizing chemical reactions essential for steel production. The supply of high-volume, high-purity oxygen from generators is crucial for enhancing production efficiency and improving the quality of steel, contributing to the overall quality and durability of steel products across various industries.
  • Welding: Oxygen generators are essential in gas welding and cutting processes, providing a high-temperature flame when combined with fuel gasses. This process ensures precise, clean cuts and joints in metal fabrication and repair work, highlighting the importance of oxygen generators in facilitating efficient welding practices with high precision and quality outcomes.


Oxygen Generator Safety

Oxygen generator safety refers to the protocols and precautions that need to be in place to ensure the safe operation and maintenance of oxygen generators. Given that oxygen supports combustion, mishandling or improper operation can lead to dangerous situations, including fire or explosions. Ensuring safety in the use of oxygen generators is vital to protect the operators, the facility, and the surrounding environment from potential hazards. Regular training, maintenance, and adherence to safety guidelines can significantly mitigate risks associated with oxygen generators.

Regular Maintenance and Inspections

Performing regular maintenance and inspections is crucial to preemptively identify and address any potential issues that could lead to equipment failure or safety hazards. Routine checks ensure that oxygen generators function correctly and efficiently, thereby minimizing the risk of oxygen leaks or contamination that could pose fire risks or threaten the purity of the oxygen produced.

Proper Ventilation

Ensuring proper ventilation in areas where oxygen generators are used or stored is critical to avoid the buildup of oxygen, which could create a highly flammable environment. Adequate ventilation systems help disperse oxygen concentrations in the air, significantly reducing the risk of ignition and ensuring the safety of the operational environment.

Use of Non-Flammable Materials

When near oxygen generators, it is essential to use materials that are non-flammable or highly resistant to fire. Since oxygen is a strong oxidizer that can rapidly enhance combustion, materials that are less likely to ignite, such as flame-retardant fabrics or metals, should be used to minimize fire hazards.

Training and Education

Providing comprehensive training and education for all personnel involved in the operation, maintenance, or even proximity to oxygen generators is crucial. This training should cover the correct operating procedures, emergency protocols, and the handling of oxygen safely. Educated individuals are more likely to recognize potential hazards and take appropriate action to prevent accidents.

Emergency Preparedness and Fire Safety Measures

Having an emergency plan in place, including fire safety measures, is essential when dealing with oxygen generators. This includes having appropriate fire extinguishers readily accessible, designing escape routes, and conducting regular fire drills. Understanding how to react swiftly and efficiently in the event of an emergency can significantly reduce the impact of any incidents that may occur.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: Where to buy oxygen generators?

Oxygen generators can be purchased from a range of suppliers, each offering various models suited to different needs, from medical applications to industrial uses. Here are some recommended places to look:

  • Medical Supply Stores: These stores specialize in healthcare equipment and often carry portable oxygen generators intended for personal medical use. They can provide expert advice on choosing the right model based on individual health requirements.
  • Online Retailers: Platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and specialized online stores offer a wide selection of oxygen generators catering to medical and industrial needs. Buying online provides the convenience of comparing different models and prices and reading customer reviews.
  • Manufacturer Websites: Purchasing directly from the manufacturer’s website ensures you’re getting a genuine product with the possibility of benefiting from direct support, warranties, and comprehensive product information. Manufacturers may also offer customized solutions for specific requirements.
  • Industrial Supply Companies: Companies that specialize in industrial equipment offer a variety of options for larger, industrial-grade oxygen generators. These suppliers can also offer installation services and ongoing maintenance contracts.


Before making a purchase, it’s essential to assess your specific needs, read reviews, and possibly consult with a professional to ensure you select an oxygen generator that meets your requirements.

Q2: How often does an oxygen generator need to be serviced?

The frequency of servicing an oxygen generator will depend on its usage and the specific model. Generally, it’s recommended to have a maintenance check every 6-12 months. However, if used regularly or in an industrial setting, more frequent checks may be necessary. Additionally, trained personnel should conduct regular inspections to identify any potential issues.

Q3: What are the risks associated with oxygen generators?

The main risk associated with oxygen generators is the possibility of fire or explosion due to improper handling, storage, or maintenance. Oxygen leaks can also pose health hazards if inhaled in high concentrations. Ensuring proper safety protocols and adhering to manufacturer guidelines can significantly reduce these risks.

Q4: Can oxygen generators be used in high-altitude areas?

Yes, oxygen generators can be used in high-altitude areas. In fact, they can be beneficial for individuals living at high altitudes who may experience low oxygen levels due to reduced air pressure. However, it’s essential to consult with a medical professional before using an oxygen generator to ensure proper usage and dosage. By providing additional oxygen, generators can help alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness and improve overall well-being.

Q5: Can oxygen generators be used in extreme temperatures?

Most oxygen generators are designed to function within a wide range of temperatures, making them suitable for use in various environments. However, it’s essential to check the specifications of the specific model you’re using and ensure that it can withstand extreme temperatures if necessary. In extremely hot or cold conditions, additional precautions may need to be taken to maintain the oxygen generator’s functionality.

Q6: Can oxygen generators be used for scuba diving?

No, oxygen generators are not suitable for use in scuba diving. Scuba divers require a specific blend of gasses, including nitrogen and helium that an oxygen generator cannot produce. Additionally, the high pressure and varying depths involved in scuba diving make it unsuitable for oxygen generators, which are typically used at sea level. 

It’s essential to use specialized scuba diving equipment that is specifically designed and certified for the activity. However, some portable oxygen generators may be suitable for surface-supplied diving activities or emergencies in shallow waters. It’s essential to consult with a professional before using an oxygen generator for any underwater activities.


Streamline Oxygen Generator Use and Safety with DATAMYTE

DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. Our Digital Clipboard, in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features a workflow, checklist, and smart form builder. This tool lets you streamline the process of using and maintaining oxygen generators by digitizing data collection and reducing manual errors. With DATAMYTE, you can easily create custom workflows for safety checks, maintenance schedules, and emergency response plans specific to your organization’s needs.

DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits, a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.

With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for ensuring the safe and efficient use of oxygen generators in your organization. From managing maintenance schedules to conducting safety checks, DATAMYTE’s low-code platform enables you to customize and automate processes, reducing the risk of human error and improving overall efficiency. Book a demo now to learn more.



Understanding the functionality, safety protocols, and maintenance requirements of oxygen generators is crucial for their effective and safe operation. Whether used for medical purposes, industrial applications, or at high altitudes, these devices are vital for providing a reliable source of oxygen. It’s important for users to be aware of the potential risks, including fire hazards and exposure to high oxygen levels, and take the necessary precautions.

Regular servicing and adherence to manufacturer guidelines can extend the lifespan of your equipment and ensure it meets your needs safely. Always consult with professionals for usage in specialized situations such as scuba diving or extreme temperature conditions. By staying informed and vigilant, you can maximize the benefits of your oxygen generator while minimizing risks.



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