Both Nitrogen and Oxygen are widely used in industrial applications. Nitrogen forms a very strong bond at the atomic levels which makes it a very stable element. Hence, it does not enter easily in chemical reactions i.e. it does not react with the surrounding chemicals easily. This property has increased the use of nitrogen in the food industry, steel processing, electronics, and similar applications as an effective coolant.
Oxygen too has its own merits. It is also colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Oxygen finds its use for being in contrast with nitrogen. Oxygen is primarily used in life-support systems. Oxygen is essential for living organisms to sustain their metabolic processes. It also provides a good ambiance for fire, which is very useful for the steel and glass industry.
In this article, we will get to know how nitrogen and oxygen are produced for industrial applications.
For the industrial applications, oxygen is generally produced in-house using an apparatus known as oxygen-generator. An oxygen generator is also known as an oxygen concentrator. It is a device used to concentrate and separate oxygen from a gas supply. The gas supply here is generally the ambient air supply. The only way to obtain separate oxygen molecules from the air is by selectively removing nitrogen from the ambient gas stream.
There are two major processes through which oxygen is generated for industrial applications:
The material used in an oxygen generator depends on the type of oxygen generator being used.
1. PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption) Oxygen Generator: A PSA oxygen generator uses a molecular sieve as a membrane. These molecular sieves filter out the oxygen from the air. The molecules of oxygen being smaller in size are filtered out from through the pores of the membrane.
2. Membrane Separation Oxygen Generator: This oxygen generator deploys polymer fibers as membranes for the separation of oxygen from nitrogen. The process in theory remains the same. However, the material used changes and the consequent applicability of the system also changes.
Industries ordering bottled nitrogen cylinders for their applications are soon becoming a thing of the past. Most of the modern industrial applications have their own in-house apparatus to generate nitrogen. These nitrogen generators separate the nitrogen from the ambient atmosphere being used as a gas supply.
The nitrogen generators in the market, being provided by companies like Atlas Copco, are of two types:
1. Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) Generators: The Carbon Molecular Sieve (CMS) used in this type of nitrogen generators filter out the oxygen molecules and nitrogen molecules get retained in the system. The generator is highly efficient and works in short cycles throughout the year.
2. Membrane Nitrogen Generation: In this type of generator, membranes are made of bundles of small and hollow fibers. These membranes are used to filter out the small-sized molecules of oxygen from the air. The remaining nitrogen is then stored and used directly in the application.
Using in-house apparatus for the generation oxygen and nitrogen for industrial applications have a lot of advantages:
· Lower overall cost – Despite the initial cost of installation, the low operational cost and higher efficiency makes then cost-effective in the long-run.
· Optimization – You don’t have to wait for the next delivery of nitrogen cylinders. Hence, the industrial process will not suffer due to delays in the delivery system. The in-house installations help in optimizing the entire process.
· High purity – Since the generation is being inside the premises, the highest levels of purity can be maintained which will result in higher efficiency of the entire process.
· Increased safety – Storing large volumes of nitrogen cylinders inside your premises is a note required anymore hence, reducing the risk of hazardous spillage or explosions.
This was all about the generation of oxygen and nitrogen for industrial processes. Please let us know if you want to know more about this.
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