Like IIT-Bombay, Pune university exploring ways to generate medical oxygen on campus

Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) wants to follow in the footsteps of IIT-Bombay, which has kickstarted a pilot project to convert an existing nitrogen-producing unit to generate medical oxygen.

Over the last few days, SPPU has been looking for solutions to produce medical oxygen on its campus and provide them for COVID patients admitted to hospitals.

SPPU Vice-Chancellor Dr. Nitin Karmalkar said that earlier there were talks to bring an oxygen plant that was lying defunct in another state, but the plant is now being shifted to another district in Maharashtra.

“I believe as universities it is our job to help in this hour of crisis and come up with unique solutions. We had created an isolation facility on campus earlier but unfortunately, we won’t be able to convert it into an oxygen bed facility. The reason being that we do not have adequate trained medical staff, it is just not our domain. So my effort is to come up with a solution to produce medical oxygen, pack it and send it to hospitals,” he said.

Karmalkar said that while he is speaking to various stakeholders, including industries for solutions, he is keenly following the development at IIT B.

At IIT-B, a pilot project has been initiated with Tata Consultancy Engineers and Spantech Engineers, where an existing pressure swing absorption (PSA) nitrogen unit has been converted to a PSA oxygen unit using a simple technological hack.

Karmalkar said that such a nitrogen unit is available on campus as science students often need nitrogen for conducting experiments and he is now considering using the same for conversion. “We are looking at other options too, we welcome ideas and help from the industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, SPPU authorities recently announced that it will now start conducting RT PCR tests for COVID on campus at its newly created laboratory. Students, volunteers and faculty with experience of working in biosafety laboratory or molecular diagnostics have been asked to come forward and help out.

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