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Limited Utility of Self-made Oxygen Generators Assembled From Everyday Commodities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 May 2022

Ulrich Limper*
Institute of Aerospace Medicine, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Cologne, Germany Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Merheim Medical Center, Hospitals of Cologne, Witten/Herdecke University, Cologne, Germany
Lena Klaas
Institute of Future Fuels, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Cologne, Germany
Markus Köhler
Institute for the Protection of Terrestrial Infrastructures, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Sankt Augustin, Germany
Daniel Lichte
Institute for the Protection of Terrestrial Infrastructures, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Sankt Augustin, Germany
Nelson J Maldonado Samaniego
Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Quito, Ecuador
Jose I Suarez
Division of Neurosciences Critical Care, Departments of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
Jens Jordan
Institute of Aerospace Medicine, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Cologne, Germany Chair of Aerospace Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
Bernhard Hoffschmidt
Institute for the Protection of Terrestrial Infrastructures, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Sankt Augustin, Germany Institute of Solar Research, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Cologne, Germany
Corresponding author: Ulrich Limper, Email:


The current COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated pre-existing oxygen supply gaps all over the world. In fact, oxygen shortages occurred in affluent areas with highly developed healthcare systems. The state-of-affairs created much suffering and resulted in potentially preventable deaths. Meanwhile, several international activities have been initiated to improve oxygen availability in the long-term by creating new networks of oxygen plants and supply channels. However, disasters such as the current pandemic may require rapid, autarkic oxygen production. Therefore, we determined whether oxygen resilience could conceivably be improved through self-made oxygen generators using material that is easily available even in remote areas. The team comprised engineers and physicians with hands-on experience in low- and middle-income countries. We constructed and tested self-made setups for water hydrolysis and membrane-based oxygen purification. We must conclude, however, that the massive amounts of oxygen patients with COVID-19 require cannot be reasonably met with such simple measures, which would require high efforts and hold potential risks.

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc.

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