All about nitrogen generation

We jump back in time and find ourselves back in school in the 4ᵉ grade. We face our physics teacher who explains that nitrogen is a gas naturally present in the atmosphere. So far, nothing to do with a nitrogen generator.

The course on gases was great, but it lacked one essential piece of information that would have captured the attention of the whole class: What is nitrogen used for and how does it work?

Why install a nitrogen generator?

Nitrogen is a gas widely used in the industrial world, whether in the food, pharmaceutical, construction or electronics industries.

Some examples of use:

In the food industry:

Nitrogen is widely used in food preservation. Linked to carbon dioxide, it keeps packaged foods fresh and prevents them from oxidizing. It is also a food additive, known as E941.

In the pharmaceutical sector:

Nitrogen is mainly used in the manufacture of antibiotics. It is found in the form of nitrous oxide which is used as an anesthetic.

In the building: Nitrogen is used in traditional expansion hardware. As for liquid nitrogen, it is used in the construction of tunnels.

Nitrogen's characteristic is to cool, even freeze the components that are in contact with it

In electronics:

During laser cutting, nitrogen is integrated into the computer processors to prevent overheating. It is also used in X-ray detectors.

However, the production of this gas requires the installation of adapted machines, in particular a nitrogen generator

How does a nitrogen generator work?

The air we breathe is 78% nitrogen. The Nitrogen generator has the task of isolating this gas from the other components. It is thus possible to manufacture its Nitrogen in its premises.

For the generator to work, it must be supplied with air. The air comes from your compressed air system.

This compressed air must meet certain conditions:

  • An inlet pressure greater than or equal to 10 bar
  • A flow rate equivalent to several tens of liters per minute
  • Air that contains no trace of hydrocarbons
  • Air without water

PSA vs membrane nitrogen generators

There are two main types of products in the nitrogen generator family:

  • The PSA nitrogen generator
  • The membrane nitrogen generator

PSA Nitrogen Generators:

The PSA technology is a gas separation technique. This technology works by pressure oscillation, which allows to produce a continuous flow of nitrogen from compressed air.

PSA nitrogen generators use air as the feedstock, coupled with a carbon molecular sieve as the adsorbent. The objective of this system is to produce N2 gas.

This principle allows the separation of N2 from the O2 contained in the air.

The positive points of this technology:

  • Easy to use system
  • Automated operation
  • Real-Time Monitoring
  • Gas production in 15-30 min
  • Low current consumption
  • High air purity

Membrane nitrogen generators:

Membrane technologies are suitable for all applications that do not require high nitrogen purity, . This technology uses bundles of hollow fibers contained in a conduit.

The fibers selectively separate the compressed air by diffusing oxygen and other gaseous effluents into the atmosphere. The walls retain the nitrogen and allow it to pass through the center of the fibers in the application.

The positive points of this technology:

- A quick return on investment (between 12 and 24 months)

-A fairly high purity range (between 90% and 99.5%), in order to adapt to your needs without achieving an over quality of nitrogen

- A 100% pneumatic membrane so no electrical source is required to operate it

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