Portable Oxygen Concentrators

Depending on the system of man’s development that you believe in, whether it is creation or evolution, you will have to agree that biology is a very interesting subject. The fact that all animals evolved, or were created, to survive on oxygen is an interesting, and scary fact.



A lack of oxygen can cause catastrophic effects to how people function, sometimes even degrading them permanently. In some even more severe cases, death is inevitable.

The term oxygen stems from Greek root words which when put together, form a misnomer, or does it? The root “Oxys” means sharp, and was made as a reference to the sour taste that acids possess. Antoine Lavoisier, a major chemist of the 18th Century, also thought it to be a major component of acids. The other root, “-genes”, literally translates to begetter.

That second term, begetter, turned out to be exactly what Oxygen is. Oxygen is the third most abundant chemical element on earth but that’s not what it’s known for. It is a sustainer of life, whether on the land, in the air or under the seas. So, it sounds like the sharp sustainer of life is exactly what oxygen is.

The discovery of oxygen and subsequent studies into its role in the support of life have led directly to treatment of diseases that were previously untreatable or poorly treated. From storing oxygen in tanks to portable oxygen concentrators that you can use in your car, development has come a long way.Before taking a deep dive into what portable oxygen generators are, lets take a look at what oxygen is and how it is used medically.

How Was Oxygen Discovered

For a number of years, the credit for the “discovery” of Oxygen went to the Englishman, John Priestly. Priestly was a number of things, a chemist being one of the hats he wore. He had heated red mercuric oxide and then used a candle to test the gases that were given off.




Oxygen, being a sustainer of combustion, lit the candle more brightly. In those days, being first to publish a discovery meant that credit went to that person. He did publish his discovery, but he was not the first person to document the existence of oxygen.

Carl Wilhelm Scheele

This honor goes to a German chemist by the name of Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Isaac Asimov, the celebrated author and science writer called him Hard Luck Scheele as he made a number of “discoveries” but the credit for them went to other people who beat him to the printing press.

Scheel had heated a number of salts such as mercuric oxide, silver carbonate and magnesium nitrate. He then passed on his discoveries to the French chemist, Antoine Lavoisier in 1774. He did not send his work to be published until the next year. But as usual, luck did not go his way and his work was published in 1777.

Antoine Lavoisie

Antoine Lavoisier subsequently claimed to be the discoverer of oxygen though this was not true. This, however, did not stop him from contributing immensely to the properties of oxygen and advancing chemical knowledge of other elements. He also came up with an early model of the periodic table.

Using knowledge gathered from his communications with both Scheele and Priestly, Lavoisier set up experiments with more sophisticated equipment at his laboratory. This allowed him to isolate the gas and perform experiments with it.

He suggested that oxygen supported life by being absorbed into the body and supporting metabolism of food into energy. He also suggested that carbon dioxide was produced as a by-product of respiration.

Well, it seems like the chemists in this period, or those who participated in work concerning oxygen had some sort of bad luck placed on them. Scheele, after working hard to isolate several chemical elements, died as a result of poisoning by the very same mercury oxide he used for his work.

John Priestly

John Priestly developed and voiced a number of controversial opinions pertaining to politics and religion. This raised suspicion and caused the people around him to surround his home and raze it to the ground. He fled to Pennsylvania to see out the rest of his life.

Antoine Lavoisier was probably the unluckiest of the three. Despite his work in advancing chemical knowledge, the participants of the French Revolution did not spare him when they discovered that his laboratory was funded by the then Royal treasury. He was sent to the guillotines.

First Applications Of Oxygen For Medical Use.

As a result of Lavoisier’s work, chemists and medical practitioners began to see the value of using oxygen to treat respiratory diseases. For a comprehensive understanding of this, it would be prudent to look at the work of Thomas Beddoes.

Thomas Beddoes was an Englishman who made his mark during the latter stages of the 18th Century. He was trained as a medical doctor and was an associate of many historical figures, well known for their work in fields such as medicine, chemistry and physics.

He was the student of various famous historical figures such as Joseph Black, a Scottish physicist and chemist, Kendall Walker, a Scottish professor of natural history and John Sheldon, a surgeon and anatomist from England.
As was the norm in those days, travelling to study under already established individuals was the norm.

One of his sojourns led him to Paris. Here, he became an acquaintance of none other than Antoine Lavoisier. As a testament to the vagaries of humans, Beddoes sympathized with the French Revolution, sentiments that ended up costing him his professorship at the Oxford University.

He became interested in treating and finding a cure for tuberculosis. In this endeavor, he opened a clinic in Bristol that he ran for 7 years. Tings may not have gone to plan as he based his principles on an observation that… well, it’s said only the bold get results.

There was an observation during those times that butchers were the people least likely to contract tuberculosis. This led him to rear cattle next to the clinic and allowed the cattle to breathe on the patients. This led to ridicule from the town folk, with some even claiming he kept patients with the cattle.

This did not stop him though. He went ahead to open another institution whose focus was to treat tuberculosis, but this time using a different approach. At that time, a different branch of chemistry arose. The focus of this branch was to conduct scientific research on the properties of gases. It is known as pneumatic chemistry.

Beddoes institute was aptly named the Pneumatic Institute. The work they did was not only to conduct scientific research, but also what those gases could do for patients with respiratory diseases. One of the very first lines of research followed here was the effect of nitrous oxide.

The research was led by the future father of electrochemistry, Sir Humphrey Davies. Sir Davies is credit with demonstrating the electric conductivity of a number of metals such as potassium, sodium and calcium, as well as for documenting the natures of iodine and chlorine.

Sir Davies conducted experiments using a variety of gases. He was drawn to nitrous oxide because of the effects described in a scientific paper published by another chemist. He described the effects of nitrous oxide and called it the laughing gas.

Another notable personality of the time got involved in the hospital. This was James Watt, widely recognized as the progenitor of the industrial revolution through his work on the steam engine. Watt got involved with the hospital after two of his children contracted tuberculosis. Watt ended up designing tools and procedures used in the production and administering of gases, come of which are still used up to this day.

Even though the Pneumatic Institute did not find treatment for tuberculosis, it did help quite a number of people who were suffering from mental illness and various forms of paralysis.

Even though using gases had shown promise in treatment and management of various conditions, the main purpose of the institute had to come to a halt. This was because an outbreak of typhus forced the institution to be converted into a general hospital to help deal with the outbreak.

Even though the institute had closed, production of oxygen did not stop there. A number of apothecaries had developed ways to produce oxygen by using electrolysis. The development of the gas cylinder further helped development of the use of oxygen. It enabled the use of oxygen in anesthesia and also was demonstrated in the treatment of pneumonia.

Modern Medical Uses Of Oxygen.

Oxygen, the begetter of life, has a number of uses in a wide range of industries. That’s not what you’re here for though. As the number one supporter of life, oxygen has a number of uses medically, from uses in surgical wards to helping manage medical conditions.

The uses of oxygen for medical uses is known as oxygen therapy and can be used in a variety of situation such as:

• In case surgery is required, the anesthesia administered will require oxygen to help the patient by oxygenating their cells before anesthesia is introduced.

• Restore oxygen in the body’s cells and making it available in the management of a number of conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning, cardiac events, severe hemorrhage and more.

• In the case of patients on comas or on life support, oxygen supports life.

• In cases where resuscitation has been conducted or is needed, keeping the patient oxygenated will help maintain brain function in aid of resuscitation.

• Treatment of stroke victims in an oxygen rich hyperbaric chamber. The increased atmospheric pressure causes extra oxygen to dissolve in the blood, therefore aiding in quick recovery of stroke victims.

Other Usage Of Oxygen

Oxygen is also used in the management of a number of chronic and conditions. Some of these conditions include:

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

This condition was also known as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. It is characterized by breathing problems that can last a lifetime. Its main symptoms include production of sputum and regular coughing. This is a progressive disease that affects normal activities such as walking or cleaning.

Cluster headaches is another condition treatable by oxygen

The cause of the condition is largely unknown but a number of risk factors have been identified. These include genetics, smoking and alcohol use. For people experiencing heart failure or high blood pressure, medication containing nitroglycerin could also be a trigger for this type of headaches.

Symptoms can vary widely but the most common include congestion of nasal passages, eye watering, and swelling around the eyes on the affected side. Cluster headaches are characterized by the onset of sudden pain and is localized around either temple and related eye area.

As the old adage goes, too much of something can be dangerous. Even though oxygen literally supports life, too much oxygen can cause severe problems. It can cause blindness when used to support premature babies.

The condition, known as retinopathy of prematurity causes blindness by encouraging the growth of blood vessels in the eyes, therefore causing them to obstruct vision. The phenomenon was prevalent in premature babies born between 1941 and 1953. It is the reason for Stevie Wonder’s blindness.

Hyperoxia is another common side effect brought on by too much oxygen. What this means is that too much oxygen has been absorbed by the blood. The usual cause of this is by breathing in an oxygen rich environment that is under pressure, like a hyperbaric chamber or for underwater divers with their tanks.

This can lead to illnesses and conditions such as retrosternal soreness. This is pain occurring behind the bone of the chest, the sternum. The pain could originate in one of the organs located there, such as the heart or lungs, or could originate elsewhere and be felt there.

When medical oxygen is administered at higher pressures, it could also lead to seizure, which could be a sign of oxygen toxicity. Oxygen toxicity can be fatal. When too much oxygen is absorbed, the cells and lipids in the body start to deteriorate can cause the central nervous system to collapse, leading to death.

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