An oxygen concentrator, or an O2 concentrator, sometimes referred to as an oxygen machine or oxygen generator, takes in the ambient air that we breathe and removes or scrubs out the nitrogen, leaving the other gases found in the air, most of which is highly concentrated oxygen. Some recreational O2 generators produce about 30% oxygen purity, while Airheads can produce up to 96% pure O2.
The key to most of these O2 machines and this oxygen separation technology is a mineral called zeolite.
Most areas of the earth are comprised of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. When the oxygen concentrator is turned on, the air is sucked through the machine’s zeolite ‘seed bed filters’, and the zeolite adsorbs the nitrogen. This is another way of saying that the nitrogen sticks to the zeolite. The oxygen concentrator then ‘cycles’ the nitrogen out, and once you remove the nitrogen, the oxygen is pushed out though the ‘out nozzle’ (along with a few other inert gases) and is usually breathed through an attached nasal cannula, AKA nose hose , or some other breathing attachment such as a nose or mask.
Visualizing the process might make it clearer.
The oxygen concentrator has an air compressor built into it. It draws the air in and then compresses it to a few times normal pressure. The zeolite absorbs the nitrogen under this increased pressure. Now a valve opens up and the remaining gases, which are mostly oxygen and a little bit of water vapor, flow into the next chamber. This chamber is connected to the hose outlet and provides us with the concentrated oxygen. At the same time, another valve opens and the remaining gases, which is mostly nitrogen, are allowed to vent harmlessly back into the ambient air. This process is repeated over and over again, creating a constant flow of enriched and pure oxygen.
Airheads uses oxygen machines or oxygen generators that can produce a stream of 5 and/or 10 liters of oxygen per minute. Some portable oxygen concentrators use an on demand arrangement. They store up the oxygen in a reservoir that is resident to the machine, and then it releases the O2 only when you inhale. These devices are called pulse oxygen concentrators. Airheads uses continuous flow oxygen concentrating machines (oxygen generators) that produce a STEADY stream of 5 or 10 liters of oxygen per minute, depending on which machine you are using.
Using an oxygen generation system is much safer and more convenient than using oxygen tanks that are under pressure. It is a fraction of the cost to generate your own oxygen. All you ever pay for is the electricity to run it! It should also be noted that breathing oxygen is very safe. Unless you are a deep sea or scuba diver, oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure poses little or no risk to a healthy individual.