Life support with Liquid Air

Using Liquid Air (at a temperature of -194°C / 79K / -317°F) instead of compressed Air in Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) has some significant benefits. Typically it will provide more than 3 times the amount of air that can be carried and therefore it will significantly extend the exposure time in hazardous situations. Secondly with the proper equipment the liquid Air can be used to cool the body of the person using the SCBA. 

Imagine a Fire Fighter going into a rescue operation: first of all he will have extended (breathing) time. And as high (body) temperature is often the deciding factor abort the mission; with a suit that cools their body (with liquid Air) they now can extend their time to complete the rescue mission.

Also for mining accidents and/or rescues Liquid Air can be highly beneficial to extend life support while waiting for rescue. 
firefighterNASA has been using Liquid Air in their SCAPE (Propellant Handlers Ensemble) suites, since the 1970’s and in their pilot suites. 

Recently significant development is taken place to commercialize this technology. Equipment has been developed and tested to allow the liquid Air breathing apparatus to work in all directions. Furthermore technology has been developed (a.o. Stirling’s AirLOCK system) to store liquid Air for long periods (preventing Oxygen enrichment) and managing Boil off. Also tests and development with NIOSH (American National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) has been performed.

scape suit  pilot

Stirling Cryogenics’ value proposition:

Stirling Cryogenics has a range of stand-alone liquid Air production system which allows users to produce their own Liquid Air for breathing purposes, when they need it and when they need it.

As liquid Air is not readily available it needs to be blended from liquid Oxygen an liquid Nitrogen.
 This is a troublesome, expensive and dangerous task. Furthermore, unless precautions are taken, liquid Air has a limited shelf life, due to the different vapor pressures of O2 and N2. This results into the danger of an Oxygen enriched mixture.

Stirlings’ StirLAIR production systems do not have these issues. With only electrical power these systems produce liquid Air on the spot, from ambient air, in the range of 5 to >100 liter per hour. With a push of a button, the customer will always have sufficient, “fresh” liquid Air at its disposal whenever it is needed.

The systems consist of an (Breathing) air compressor, gas treatment section, one or more Stirling cycle based liquefiers and a storage tank to hold the liquid Air until it is being used.

The liquid Air produced meet the (most common required) Breathing air specifications. Typically:

Oxygen Content: 19-23 (vol)%
Carbon Dioxide (CO2): < 50 ppm
Carbon Monoxide (CO): < 10 ppm
Water (H2O): < 5 ppm
Total Hydro Carbons (as Methane): < 25 ppm
Odorless: Yes  

Note: As liquid Air is stored (and initially) used at cryogenic temperature more stringent requirements are applicable on certain components (especially CO2 and water)

Additional features:

  • Fully stand-alone, plug and play design
  • The systems can produce liquid Air from 0 up to 10 barg (5 barg standard, higher upon request)
  • Other specifications on purity can be considered and discussed.
  • (3rd party) analysis of Liquid Air upon request
  • Optional AirLOCK system on LAIR storage tank to prevent Oxygen enrichment
  • Optional safety features available (o.a. Oxygen content analyser)

mine rescue
Mine rescuers suit up for training


Additional information: 

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