SeQual Selected to Advance Oxygen Technology for Military

SeQual Technologies announced that the agency responsible for maintaining the technical superiority of the U.S. military has awarded them Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research funding for research into developing an extreme version of the company's portable Eclipse Oxygen System.

"We're pleased that DARPA has recognized our marked advantage in developing cutting-edge products," said SeQual CEO Jim Bixby.

SeQual's Eclipse oxygen concentrator, a portable unit that provides a continuous flow of oxygen, weighs 17 pounds and is about the size of a child's backpack. The military would like to be able to deploy an Eclipse-like concentrator to troops in the field, rather than the 125-pound cylinders of compressed oxygen used today.

The DARPA funding will be used by SeQual to develop a smaller, lighter and more robust version of the Eclipse. The new unit could weigh in at only 7 pounds, yet deliver as much as 4 liters of medical grade oxygen per minute and be small enough to attach to a soldier's backpack.Providing oxygen quickly to troops wounded in battle can be crucial to life-saving efforts.

In addition, a portable Eclipse-like device would solve a major logistical challenge and potentially save the military tens of millions of dollars a year.

"Every 5pounds of oxygen we ship anywhere in the world goes in a 125-pound steel canister," said Mark F. Arnold, product manager, field medical oxygen for Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Md. "A typical patient will consume one canister a day. Since the number of patients needing oxygen is estimated at upwards of 15 percent of the military's patient population, it's clear why the Army and other branches are looking for the right portable system to eliminate reliance on decades-old technology and the logistical burdens that go with it."

Combat situations provide added complications. If a bullet punctures a canister, the canister explodes since it is under high pressure of 2,200 to 3,000 psi. Depending upon where struck, the Eclipse could keep working. The Eclipse has the added benefit of being able to run off batteries or power from any vehicle or aircraft to support necessary evacuations.

Bixby noted that SeQual engineers have already developed prototypes for the military that pared weight by 50 percent with further leaps in technology under way.

This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of HME Business.

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