What is a Concentrator? Your Essential Guide to Oxygen Therapy.

Oxygen is one of the most important elements for the human body to function properly. However, some people may find it hard to breathe in enough oxygen, which is where oxygen therapy comes in. Oxygen therapy is a way to help these people get the oxygen they need from the air. One of the most common forms of oxygen therapy is using a concentrator. In this article, we will explore what a concentrator is and how it can be an essential tool for oxygen therapy.

What is Oxygen Therapy?

Oxygen therapy is a type of medical treatment where you receive oxygen through an external source. There are different ways to provide oxygen to a patient, but the most common types of oxygen therapy include:

  • Oxygen concentrators
  • Oxygen tanks
  • Oxygen masks

All of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages. However, most people opt for oxygen concentrators as they are more convenient and safer to use for extended periods of time.

What is an Oxygen Concentrator?

An oxygen concentrator is a device that concentrates ambient air into a higher oxygen concentration. It takes the air from the environment and removes nitrogen until it is left with oxygen. The purified oxygen is then conveyed to the patient through a nasal cannula or a mask.

Oxygen concentrators are the most common form of oxygen therapy as they are more convenient and safer to use over long periods of time. Unlike oxygen tanks, which have a limited supply, concentrators are capable of generating oxygen continuously as long as they have access to a power source, which makes them ideal for use in a medical setting or at home.

How Does an Oxygen Concentrator Work?

Oxygen concentrators work by filtering air through a series of molecular sieve beds. These beds contain zeolite pellets that attract and adsorb nitrogen from the air. The molecular sieve beds release oxygen, which is concentrated and sent to the patient.

The oxygen that is produced by the concentrator can be adjusted through the flow meter, which controls the amount of oxygen that is supplied to the patient. Higher flow settings deliver more oxygen, while lower settings deliver less. Oxygen concentrators produce oxygen continuously, which is an essential feature when using them for prolonged periods.

Types of Oxygen Concentrators

Stationary Oxygen Concentrators

Stationary oxygen concentrators are larger and heavier as compared to portable models. These concentrators are designed for use in a single location like a home, hospital, or medical facility. They tend to be more powerful, with a higher concentration of oxygen output and a higher flow rate. The benefits include an unlimited supply of oxygen and low cost of operation. However, these units are bulky and heavy, so they are not suitable for use while traveling.

Portable Oxygen Concentrators

Portable oxygen concentrators are designed for use on-the-go. They are battery-operated, which means they don’t need to be connected to a wall outlet to work. Portable oxygen concentrators are smaller and lighter, making them easy to carry around in a backpack or purse. They are perfect for people who want to maintain their mobility and independence while receiving oxygen therapy.

Benefits of an Oxygen Concentrator

There are several benefits of using an oxygen concentrator, which include:

  • Continuous supply of oxygen
  • Adjustable flow rate to suit individual needs
  • No need for oxygen tank refills or replacements
  • Lower cost of operation compared to traditional oxygen tanks
  • Safe and reliable

Who Can Benefit from Oxygen Concentrators?

Oxygen therapy is beneficial for people who suffer from respiratory disorders such as:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • Lung Cancer
  • Sleep Apnea

Patients with these conditions may require supplemental oxygen to assist with breathing. An oxygen concentrator can help provide the necessary oxygen to alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life.

Choosing an Oxygen Concentrator

When selecting an oxygen concentrator, there are a few key factors that you need to consider:

  • Portability: If you require constant oxygen therapy, you may want to invest in a portable oxygen concentrator that can be taken with you on the go.
  • Flow Rate: You will want to select an oxygen concentrator that has the appropriate flow rate to support your oxygen needs. Your doctor will be able to determine this.
  • Noise Level: Some oxygen concentrators may be quite loud and disruptive. If you plan to use the concentrator at night, a quieter model may be more appropriate.
  • Size and Weight: The size and weight of the concentrator may be a determining factor if you plan to use it frequently or intend to travel with it.

Caring for Your Oxygen Concentrator

To ensure that your oxygen concentrator continues to function correctly, it is essential to maintain and clean the device on a regular basis. This involves:

  • Replacing filters
  • Cleaning the sieve beds
  • Cleaning the cannula or mask connector
  • Cleaning the exterior of the device

It is also recommended that you have your oxygen concentrator regularly serviced by a professional. Your equipment provider should provide you with this service.


Oxygen concentrators are an essential tool for oxygen therapy. They provide a constant and adjustable supply of oxygen, making them an alternative to oxygen tanks. Selecting the right oxygen concentrator based on your needs can be overwhelming. However, understanding the technology behind the device, the different types available, and your specific treatment requirements can help you make an informed decision.


What is an oxygen concentrator?

An oxygen concentrator is a medical device that takes in ambient air and filters out nitrogen, thus generating highly concentrated oxygen that is delivered via a nasal cannula or mask to the patient.

Who needs an oxygen concentrator?

Oxygen concentrators are used by people who experience difficulty breathing and require supplemental oxygen to help them breathe properly. This includes people who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, and sleep apnea. These conditions can make it challenging to maintain normal oxygen levels in the bloodstream, which can affect quality of life.

What is the difference between a stationary and a portable oxygen concentrator?

Stationary oxygen concentrators are typically larger and heavier than their portable counterparts. They are designed to be used in a single location, such as a home or hospital. Portable oxygen concentrators, on the other hand, are smaller, lightweight, and battery-operated. They can be taken on-the-go, which makes them ideal for people who want to maintain their mobility while receiving oxygen therapy.

How long do oxygen concentrators last?

Oxygen concentrators are designed to last for several years. The average lifespan of an oxygen concentrator ranges from 3 to 7 years. However, this can vary depending on usage and the maintenance of the device. Regular maintenance and cleaning can extend the lifespan of your oxygen concentrator.

What is the cost of an oxygen concentrator?

The cost of an oxygen concentrator will depend on the type and brand of the device. Stationary oxygen concentrators tend to be more expensive than portable ones. However, the cost of operation is much lower than traditional oxygen tanks. Some insurance plans cover the cost of an oxygen concentrator, so it is essential to check with your provider to see if you qualify.

Can I travel with an oxygen concentrator?

Yes, you can travel with a portable oxygen concentrator. These devices are small and lightweight, making them easy to carry with you on the go. However, you should always check with the airline before traveling to ensure that you comply with their rules and regulations.

What is the main feature to look for when buying an oxygen concentrator?

The most critical feature to consider when buying an oxygen concentrator is the flow rate. Your doctor will help you determine the flow rate you need. Additionally, you may want to consider the noise level, portability, size, and weight of the device.

Can I use an oxygen concentrator at night?

Yes, you can use an oxygen concentrator at night. However, some models may be loud and disruptive, which can affect your sleep. If you plan on using an oxygen concentrator at night, you may want to consider a device that operates quietly.

Where can I get an oxygen concentrator?

Oxygen concentrators can be purchased or rented from medical equipment suppliers. You will need a prescription from your doctor to buy or rent an oxygen concentrator.

Do I need to clean my oxygen concentrator?

Yes, you need to clean your oxygen concentrator regularly to ensure that it is functioning correctly. Cleaning involves replacing filters, cleaning the sieve beds, cleaning the cannula or mask connector, and cleaning the exterior of the device.


  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/oxygen-therapy/about/pac-20385227
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/copd/in-depth/oxygen-therapy/art-20094180
  • https://www.breathingcenter.com/articles/how-does-an-oxygen-concentrator-work/
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/portable-oxygen-concentrators-vs-oxygen-tanks#benefits-of-portable-oxygen-concentrators
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5970730/

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