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Air India begins zeolite cargo flight service

Topics Covered: Indigenization of technology.

Air India begins zeolite cargo flight service:


  • National carrier Air India has begun the first of its “zeolite cargo flights” with the government of India having commenced the process of importing zeolite from across the world for use in medical oxygen plants.
  • The government has appointed the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as the charterer for these consignments.
  • Under the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund, the DRDO is to set up these medical oxygen plants.

Use of Zeolite in medical oxygen plants:

The technology being developed by the DRDO uses the pressure swing adsorption process and molecular sieve zeolite in oxygen generation.

  • Zeolites are used as adsorbent material.
  • An oxygen concentrator uses Zeolites to adsorb atmospheric nitrogen and then vents out the nitrogen. This leaves oxygen gas remaining to be used for patients.
  • In high pressure, the surface area of zeolites increases and thus is capable of adsorbing large quantities of nitrogen.

Pressure Swing Adsorption:

Pressure swing adsorption (PSA) is a technology used to separate some gas species from a mixture of gases under pressure.

  • PSA operates at near-ambient temperatures.
  • Specific adsorbent materials (e.g., zeolites, activated carbon, molecular sieves, etc.) are used as a trap, preferentially adsorbing the target gas species at high pressure.

What are Zeolites?

Zeolites are microporous, three dimensional crystalline solid of aluminium silicate. Zeolites have small openings of fixed size in them which allow small molecules to pass through them easily but larger molecules cannot pass through them; that is why they are sometimes called molecular sieve.

  • Zeolites are either formed naturally or can be synthesized.

Properties Of Zeolites:

  • Zeolites are very stable solid under different environmental conditions. The melting point of zeolite is very high, i.e.1000oC.
  • They are insoluble in water or other inorganic solvents.
  • They do not undergo oxidation in the presence of air.
  • Zeolites which are rich in alumina are attracted to polar molecules like water whereas zeolite rich in silica are attracted towards nonpolar molecules.
  • Since zeolites are not reactive and are obtained from naturally occurring minerals, therefore, they do not have any harmful environmental effects; although skin contact or inhalation may have a carcinogenic effect.


Prelims Link:

  1. What is swing adsorption technology?
  2. About Zeolites.
  3. Sources.
  4. Features.
  5. Applications.

Mains Link:

Write a note on swing adsorption technology.

Sources: the Hindu.