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What is Oxygen?
Oxygen is a chemical element with symbol O. The symbol O2 is also widely used and accepted within the industry, which is the symbol for dioxygen representing two atoms of oxygen element binding together. O2 oxygen is a colourless, odourless and tasteless diatomic gas. Oxygen ‘O’ gas was discovered in around 1772 by a Swedish Pharmacist, Carl Wilhelm Scheele.
Oxygen constitute about one fifth of the volume of the atmosphere. It is a gas that supports combustion, hence highly dangerous when put in large quantity near a combustion source and a fuel. Oxygen is widely used in many different industries such as medical (hospitals for breathing aid), food chain such as hatcheries (for supplying oxygen to small embryonic fish), welding, and others.
Oxygen can be found in all living organisms. It is one of the two constituent of water. Water is well known to be formed from hydrogen and oxygen through the accepted H2O formula, where one molecule of water is constituted of two molecules of hydrogen H2 and one molecule of oxygen O. As for example near two third of every human being is constituted of water, hence a large quantity of our body is oxygen.
The majority of oxygen currently produced worldwide uses fractional distillation of liquefied air, electrolysis of water and/or use of zeolites with pressure-cycling to concentrate oxygen from air. Everyone can produce oxygen in their own home using water electrolysis (home electrolysis is not recommended). Water electrolysis is simply a means to split up water into its two gas constituents, that is hydrogen and oxygen. To split water, we use a device called electrolyser. An electrolyser split hydrogen from oxygen by sending an electrical current between two electrodes (metallic bars). The electrodes are put into the water without touching each other. When the current flows between the two electrodes, hydrogen and oxygen splits up. Hydrogen will be generated onto one electrode while oxygen will be generated onto the other electrode bar.
Local Oxygen generators from air are now becoming the norm across the industry. As they can produce oxygen locally for local use, it is understandable that many are now purchasing onsite oxygen generators. These O2 generators separate the oxygen gas from ambient air through the use of a membrane or via a Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA). Oxygen generators benefit from their small footprint while able to produce of oxygen. However, one has to remember that each oxygen generator needs an air compressor in addition to a potential oxygen compressor. The role of the air compressor is to compress ambient air through the membrane or PSA. The role of the oxygen compressor is to compress the oxygen gas into a oxygen storage system at a given pressure such as 200 bar.
Safety, Storage & Handling of oxygen products:
Oxygen, in gaseous form, is widely stored in high pressure oxygen storage cylinders, tubes or tube trailers. In liquid form, oxygen is mainly stored at the consumer site in cryogenic liquid tank or cylinders. These tanks are highly insulated and specifically designed to reduce evaporation of the oxygen gas. Liquid oxygen is dangerous and therefore only trained individuals must handle it with care. The handling of oxygen liquid gas is risky and therefore all precautions must be taken to avoid any accidents.
Oxygen concentration in air detection unit is highly advisable. As a rule of thumb any oxygen system (Oxygen compressor, Oxygen generator, etc) should be located in a highly ventilated area. An oxygen monitoring system is also advisable to reduce any oxygen related risks.
To dispose oxygen gas from pressurised oxygen vessel, on should vent the oxygen slowly to a well-ventilated outdoor location remote from personal work areas and building air intakes. Usually an oxygen pipe is used to direct the oxygen to a safe venting place. As for liquid oxygen, first allow the O2 to evaporate. Liquid oxygen boils quickly, so there should not be issue to get it to transform to its gaseous form state.
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