By Ellen Crown, USAMRMC Deputy Public Affairs Officer
FORT DETRICK, Md. (Oct. 21, 2015) — The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency will soon begin fielding a new 12-pound portable oxygen generator that will drastically reduce logistical issues related to oxygen supply for patient care in the field.
The USAMMA, a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, plans to field the generators in its kits, such as air ambulance and ground ambulance, as well as unit assemblages provided for forward surgical teams, EMT/trauma and pre-op and intensive care ward/post-op. The generator will augment the ‘D’ cylinder for patient care and transport, providing a continuous supply of oxygen for non-critical patients using standard electrical power.
“Instead of lugging around 10 cylinders, which weigh 9 pounds each, a medic will now bring this one 12-pound device, which runs on a rechargeable battery and can produce three liters of 93 percent oxygen per minute,” said Maj. Norland James, assistant program manager of health care technologies at the USAMMA. “This is going to save the government countless dollars and reduce the giant logistical footprint that we have when it comes to patient care oxygen in the field.”
James added that one of the best things about the generator, besides its low weight is also its shape, which is similar to a traditional cylinder. Most commercial oxygen generators are box-shaped; however, the Army required this device to fit where any regular cylinder would go on a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle or Humvee, so the device secures into the existing oxygen storage racks of Army evacuation vehicles. It is also about 30 percent lighter than a comparable commercial device.
Oxygen generation is not new to the Army, which has been developing and fielding oxygen generators for the past 20 years, according to Patrick Doyle, a biomedical engineer in the USAMMA’s Medical Devices Program Management Office.
However, as Doyle pointed out, the title oxygen generator is a bit of a misnomer as the device does not actually “generate” oxygen. The device uses a chemical process to separate the nitrogen from oxygen in room air, producing an oxygen-enriched gas. He explained that the device’s design is a simplification of an existing pressure swing adsorption oxygen generator technology. The use of a rotary valve, which is driven directly by a small motor, eliminates complex valve and control systems used in conventional oxygen generators. This is what helps to reduce the weight and makes the system easy to repair in the field, when needed.
“This device is not the end of the road,” added Doyle. “Our oxygen supply system is open to further development… We are always trying to make things better for the warfighter.”
Editor’s note: The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command is the Army’s medical materiel developer, with responsibility for medical research, development, and acquisition and medical logistics management. The USAMRMC’s expertise in these critical areas helps establish and maintain the capabilities the Army needs to fight and win on the battlefield.