DRDO’s SpO2-based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for extremely high altitudes can be used effectively for COVID-19 patients

Published : April 20, 2021 17:43 IST

Defence Bio Engineering & Electro Medical Laboratory (DEBEL), the Bengaluru based laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), announced on April 19 that its SpO2 (blood oxygen saturation) supplemental oxygen delivery system, which it developed inhouse for soldiers posted at extremely high-altitudes, can also be used as an aid in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The brainchild of K. Mohanvelu, Scientist and Head of DEBEL’s Biomedical Technology Centre, and his team, DEBEL’s ‘supplemental oxygen delivery system’ delivers oxygen based on the SpO2 levels and prevents the person from sinking into a state of hypoxia (deficiency of oxygen). Hypoxia is a leading factor for hospitalisations and fatalities in the COVID-19 pandemic.

DEBEL’s supplemental oxygen delivery system reads the blood oxygen saturation levels of the subject from a wrist-worn pulse oximeter module through a wireless interface and controls a proportional solenoid valve to regulate oxygen supply to the subject. The needed oxygen is then delivered from a lightweight portable oxygen cylinder through nasal nares.

With hospital beds at a premium in most cities and towns, officials at DEBEL point out that the system can be safely used in the homes of moderately infected COVID-19 patients for oxygen flow therapy. Officials point out that using the supplemental oxygen delivery system would “greatly reduce the workload and exposure time of doctors and paramedics to monitor the SpO2 levels of patients”, and its usage would mitigate the crisis in management of such huge numbers of patients.

The system allows for the oxygen flow to be controlled at 2, 5, 7, or 10 litres per minute (lpm). Said an official: “The automatic usage has huge advantage in the household, as the oximeter would give an alarm for lower SpO2 values. It will automatically increase/decrease the oxygen flow based on the SpO2 settings which can be auto adjusted at 2, 5, 7, 10 lpm flow rate. The optimal oxygen flow rate conserves the oxygen resources/oxygen management and greatly increases the endurance.”

According to DEBEL/DRDO “the electronic hardware of the system is designed for functioning at extreme altitudes featuring low barometric pressures, low temperatures and humidity”. In addition, the software safety checks incorporated into the system are critical in ensuring that the DEBEL supplemental oxygen delivery system functions with reliability in challenging field conditions.

With the DEBEL supplemental oxygen delivery system having been developed indigenously for operations in field conditions, it is both robust and cheap to manufacture and is already under bulk production in the Indian industry. Available in various sizes ranging from one litre and one kg in weight providing 150 litres of oxygen supply to 10 litres and10 kgs in weight delivering 1,500 litres of oxygen supply, the DEBEL supplemental oxygen delivery system can sustain 750 minutes of operations with a continuous oxygen flow of 2 lpm.