Can Nitrogen be Converted into Oxygen: Nitrogen and oxygen are different elements; their atoms have different numbers of protons in the nucleus. Only nuclear reactions can convert one into the other. No living being performs nuclear responses as part of its metabolism.
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Conversion of Nitrogen Gas Plants to Produce Medical Grade Oxygen
- The central government requested the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Considering the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, for existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen. Without affecting their regular operation to further increase oxygen availability for medical purposes in the country, which has comprehensive industrial unit data.
- And also to identify industries that have saved nitrogen plants and explore the feasibility of converting existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen. CPCB has discussed with almost 500 enterprises that have nitrogen plants. As of 05.10.2021 has identified around 60 sectors in which The CPCB, in coordination with the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB), has identified these potential industries where existing nitrogen plants could be secure for oxygen production.
- Existing nitrogen plants can get modify to produce oxygen. With the availability of ZMS, such a plant can be set up in 4-5 days, while installing a new oxygen plant take a minimum of 3-4 weeks. M/s UPL initiated the conversion and commissioned the first plant at L G Rotary Hospital, Vapi, operational on 04/27/2021.
- Move a nitrogen plant to a nearby hospital for oxygen production. It is for on-site oxygen production and transported to the hospital by cylinders if it is difficult.
More Steps for Conversion of Nitrogen Gas Plants
- With a shortage of medical oxygen in the country to treat Covid-19 patients, the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) has set up a demonstration unit to convert nitrogen generators. From India, on oxygen generators by refining the design of the existing nitrogen plant.
- The oxygen that gets generate by this plant in the IIT-B laboratory has been sent for test is 93-96% pure and at 3.5 atmospheric pressure.
- Nitrogen generating plants, which take air from the atmosphere and separate the oxygen and nitrogen to produce liquid nitrogen, are found in various industries, such as oil and gas, food and beverage. Nitrogen is dry and commonly used to purge and clean oil and gas tankers.
- Milind Atrey, Institute Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT-B, with Tata Consulting Engineers Limited (TCE), demonstrated a proof of concept for rapid conversion of nitrogen plants to oxygen plants.
- Nitrogen plants work with pressure swing adsorption (PSA) technology, in which air comes from the atmosphere, impurities are filter out, and nitrogen gets pulled out. Oxygen, which is a by-product, is release into the atmosphere. A nitrogen plant has four components: a compressor to control the pressure of the sucked air, an air tank to filter out impurities, power supply units where the separation takes place, and a surge tank to which this passes and stores separated nitrogen.
Production of Nitrogen and Oxygen
Oxygen and nitrogen represent the main parts of air. All commercially available N2 and O2 produce as air. Nitrogen is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas.
Nitrogen atoms have a powerful bond which makes nitrogen very stable, so it does not need to enter into chemical reactions. Due to these properties, nitrogen is in the food industry, steel processing, electronics and similar applications.
Oxygen also has no color, smell or taste. Compared to nitrogen, oxygen reacts with most chemical elements.
Most living organisms require it for metabolic processes. It also accelerates fire in the steel and glass industry.
Membranes are suitable for lower quantities and purities. The advantage is the temperature. The higher the temperature, the higher is the efficiency. It is the opposite of other production concepts.
With pressure swing adsorption (PSA), it is possible to achieve high purity (97 to 99.999% nitrogen) and relatively high production capacities. Even higher purity is possible, but the compressed air consumption is higher. It lowers the purity and the lower the nitrogen production costs.
The cryogenic plant is the oldest concept. Pure gases can separate from the air by cooling it until it liquefies. The components are then separate based on various boiling temperatures. The excess gases get distribute in the form of liquid nitrogen, or this liquid nitrogen evaporate and compressed in high-pressure cylinders. This concept produces high purity and high capacity gases, but it is capital intensive and energy intensive. Cryogenic plants are the source of consumption.
Compared to nitrogen, there are no membranes on the market for the direct production of oxygen; the possible production routes are, therefore, only the PSA concept and the cryogenic plant. With PSA, we can see VPSA. V means empty. So, this concept differs from PSA only in the operating pressure (PSA 6 to 10 bar, VPSA around 0.5 bar).
It is possible to achieve higher purity with cryogenic plants. It is because the separation is out according to the different boiling points of the gases. Like nitrogen, the oxygen produced in cryogenic installations distributes to end consumers in the form of liquid or compressed oxygen.