Sustainable off-grid oxygen concentration with direct solar power (SOX)
Oxygen is a lifesaving therapy for children, neonates as well as adults with pneumonia and hypoxia. The availability of medical grade concentrated oxygen is however extremely limited in most low-resource health systems. In many MSF projects, it is a central therapy for life-saving medical care and the use of oxygen concentrators is increasing exponentially. Since the concentrators consume a lot of energy, this is now the primary energy consumer in many projects, which also contribute to logistical challenges.
The aim of this project was to explore the possibilities of producing concentrated medical grade oxygen with direct solar power during daytime and store it as compressed gas for night-time use. This could help facilitate solar power implementation in MSF by avoiding an extensive need for battery backup. An increased use of solar power would be beneficial from an environmental and social sustainability perspective (increased possibility for local actors to maintain healthcare facilities after handover).
The project has investigated the current oxygen usage in MSF field projects, the current challenges and costs for oxygen provision, as well as the market availability and costs for oxygen storage solutions. Furthermore, a direct solar power solution has been tested together with a low-pressure oxygen storage prototype at the Éspace Bruno Corbé in Brussels. The overall conclusion is that the economically most promising solar powered solution would take around three years to pay-back the initial outset costs, when compared to the standard oxygen concentrators, generally powered by diesel generators.
A background research has been carried out to map ingoing initiatives in and outside MSF and to identify the potential available equipment for a prototype. In parallell, the oxygen needs of OCA field hospitals has been analysed to determine an appropriate capacity for the prototype.
The solar energy system and low-pressure oxygen storage prototype system has been tested at Espace Bruno Corbé in Brussels.
Recommendations for a field implementation for test and verification has been given in the project final report.
Operational Centre Amsterdam, Logistics Department