This instructable will walk you through the basics of making your own nitrogen gas generator. Using pressure swing adsorption with carbon molecular sieve you can make an endless supply from the air without using any consumables. You can use this for filling your tires (nitrogen stays in tires much longer than oxygen, reducing the time you need to refill them), having a non-combustible gas or, in my case, to feed into a liquid nitrogen generator.

I won't go into any theory here. I'll just go over the basic construction. A unit of the size I will describe can go between $6000 to $8000. You can build this for a fraction of the price. If you are interested in this subject in more detail you can go to my nitrogen generator web tutorial. There you will find more pictures, animations and other information. There is also a video going over the nitrogen generator. You can also view my liquid nitrogen generator tutorial.

If you are ready to build this for your shop just click next.

Step 1: Basic theory

This is a big project and will most likely need to stay in your shop or garage. The generator runs off of compressed air. It has two tower beds, each filled with CMS (carbon molecular sieve). Pneumatic valves control the airflow into one at a time. Under pressure, oxygen is preferentially trapped, while nitrogen passes through and out the bottom. The controller opens the next bed for filling, isolating it from the first one as it opens it to the atmosphere. During decompression, the first bed releases the oxygen back into the atmosphere, regenerating the CMS.

The picture above shows the CMS, which looks like chocolate sprinkles. They are approximately 0.5 x 2mm in size. Let's go over a basic materials list.

Can I increase the purity of the N2 if I just make the tower larger and increase the amount of CMS
Were could I buy some CMS-H there are so many sellers don't know which one I can trust
<p>This took a while but I built it and it works great. Keep in mind the CMS will be the most costly and difficult to source part of the build. I also built mine 2x as big as the one inthe instructions due to nitrogen requirements for my application. Thanks for all the help.</p>
Very nice. I built my analyzer. However, I got the O2 electrode from an anesthesia machine. You will have to find that part. The rest just involved building a circuit that could sense the voltage generated by the electrode and convert that to a value between 0 and 100.
<p>i have been doing so much research since first seeing your video and your pressure swing absorption machine. great video very inspiring, especially all of your failures explained. i was initialy inspired to learn about the production of the gases. my concept before i started anywhere was to produce oxygen, to mix with fuel gas, eg propane, acetylene, gasoline, etc. to be able to build a cost effective welding ,brazing system. looked at lots of different zeolite products even to the point of how are they produced. not sure if i have missed something , or if someone has messed with your info . in your video it shows 13x whitey coloured balls with odd blue ones in,. however in another tutorial it states walnut or coconut shells processed, i am curious to which one is the most effective. how can i purchase it in small quantity 20 to 40 kilograms. the pressure swing machine you have built is well smart. but it also appears you have a rocket shape system where air flows through one upright zeolite sieve. you make it look fun and exciting, great choice of music on the vid.. ps . i am a carpenter by trade, done lots of creative building work. would appreciate your input to build, pressure swing absorption machine or similar. </p>
<p>I would like to know if there is any way to take the nitrogen from the generator and make liquid nitrogen. Can you create an instructable on that? I saw one already, but I am uncertan about it.</p>
I already did. Search liquid nitrogen generator.<br>You can also view my web tutorial at<br>homemadeliquidnitrogen.com
http://www.edmunds.com/car-care/should-you-fill-your-cars-tires-with-nitrogen.html<br> Although they differ with my opinion of pressure build up they conclude that nitrogen is expensive and not much of a benefit at all. Keep in mind that the air you breath is already 78% nitrogen. If you keep your tires properly inflated with nitrogen the cost comes to about $86. per year per tire. If you add air to nitrogen every time the pressure drops the cost would be less but the percentage of nitrogen would be less and less. The other point is that the dealers would have to flow quite a bit of nitrogen through the tire in the first place to displace the air already inside the tire. In other words nitrogen tires are pretty much nonsense.
<p>The whole point of this instructable is to produce nitrogen cheaply. </p>
<p>About how much did this cost? Super cool project, I might see if I can get my school to fund a student led version of this.</p>
<p>I am thinking about building one but am in Europe so will start to investigate how to source these parts. After that I can post a European sourcing list.</p><p>You mention in the video if you had a larger system you could get more pure gas? Isn't the purity based on how much time you allow the cms to absorb? I guess you meant that to keep the same flow rate at a higher purity you would need a larger system. I am making this for fiber laser cutter assist gas and need like 99.9% pure.</p>
<p>This is great. If I need to get up to 50L/min what needs to change? The specification I am looking to meet is 1.5 cfm normal flow, 5 cfm peak flow for purging a chamber all at 50 PSI.</p>
<p>Look up Interra Global</p><p>They sell the stuff.</p>
<p>I'd love to have one of these but the steel aspect makes it less desirable. Is there a reason to not use PVC that can hold at least 150PSI?</p>
While there is pac schedule 80 that should hold the pressure, I would feel more comfortable with steel. All of the commercial units use metal. You would not want pieces of plastic flying around. <br><br>However, if you wish to proceed, I get about 95-97% N2 at around 100psi at about 30 L/min output.
I've been looking around for the CMS and am not having much luck in finding it at a reasonable price. What should I expect to pay? Where should I look for it?
<p>Hi! This looks like an awesome project, I just have a couple of questions.</p><p>First, where did you get the 8&quot; pipes?</p><p>Second, where did you get the CMS?</p><p>Third, please correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you need 4 pairs of flanges for the top and bottom of each pipe, and not two? </p>
<p>So, the waste gas in this case is pure oxygen?</p>
It is not pure oxygen. It is concentrated. I believe I measured 35-40% oxygen on the waste side with one stage.
<p>I would suspect that the waste gas is actually enriched air not pure oxygen. In the zeolite oxygen Concentrators, the waste gas is not pure nitrogen. I don't think PSA conceptually allows for this. </p>
<p>It's a waste to discard pure oxygen! If I made one, I would make sure to also compress this using a second regenerative system! Copenhagen suborbitals (and other amateurs) would be very happy with that :)</p>
<p>did you ever secure a source for CMS that the rest of us can tap into? I'd like to make a considerably smaller system for my Stirling cooler but don't want to deal with China and their shipping costs. There was a U.S. destributor but they seem to be out of business. </p><p>Doug</p>
The CMS comes in 20kg canisters. If you are seriously interested give me your address and the quantity. I will contact my supplier. I was hoping they would have a website setup to keep me out of the loop, but I will work with you to get the stuff. Once I know your address and quantity I can get you a price quote for having it shipped directly to you.
<p>Awesome tutorial! I'm a mechanical engineering (part-time) student and I will definitely be making one of these to have in my shop.</p><p>Just a suggestion on your parts list: change the listing of the &quot;(2) 8&quot; ID x 33&quot; long&quot; steel tubes to: (2) 8&quot; schedule 40 pipe at 33&quot; long. On the flanges: change your listing to (2) 8&quot; 150# raised-face slip-on flange and (2) 8&quot; 150# raised-face blind flange. Most people don't have 8&quot; pipe or flanges laying around, so when they go to ask for it at a supply store or search online, it makes for a smoother purchasing experience. It also makes for an easier assembly experience (for either the welder or the one building the entire generator) with those pieces.</p><p>My day job is a piping and structural designer, just trying to help.</p><p>Cheers!</p>
<p>Thanks for the comment. Changes made. Please look at my video on youtube and my liquid nitrogen generator video and tutorial pages on the web.</p>
No need to recharge. MTBF is outrageously long. <br>Search &quot;64volks&quot;. I know he has a couple more of these. <br>The one I bought is a pretty stripped down unit. No frills. <br><br>http://www.ebay.com/itm/111382303763?_trksid=p2059210.m2749.l2649&amp;ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT<br><br>He sets the auction at $200. The first one went for $501 (the buy now offer was $500) so I just bought the next one outright. <br><br>No need to recharge with helium. They're sealed units. Run them with a Variac at 30vAC or so. <br><br>Doug<br>
I just looked at the link<br>It looks like a filter<br>Where does it say its a cryo cooler?
Take a look at this link ;)<br><br>http://picclick.com/850SLA6F1R-SUPERCONDUCTOR-TECHNOLOGIES-CRYOCOOLER-SUPERLINK-RX-850MHZ-390620686311.html
When it says &quot;Superfilter&quot;, it contains a stirling Cryocooler. <br>I contacted SuperConductor Technologies for that specific model and they confirmed this unit has a 5watt thermal lift at 77K. <br>He has a couple of these physically smaller units (same size Cryocooler) but said he also has others with stirling engines. <br>Doug
<p>you're using a considerably higher pressure for your PSA system, presumably based on the adsorbant your used. Zeolite based oxygen concentrators typically pressurize to less than 30psi. I broke down and grabbed a stirling Cryocooler today but want to couple this with a countercurrent JT cooler to increase production. The Stirling engine has around 5watts thermal lift at 77k. I couldn't see a 3000psi Compressor out in my garage. :). A two pound stirling engine with a 10bar compressor is much lower risk ;)</p><p>Doug</p>
Where did you get it<br>How much was it?
The Stirling Cryocooler was $500 plus shipping. <br>Ebay
<p>Would you send the link from the item listing. I would like to see how it was advertised. I have seen many cryo units on Ebay, but they usually are too expensive or contain more parts than I would have needed. Also, don't you have to charge this with helium every so often?</p>
$500 plush shipping. <br>Ebay
Cardiac Anesthesia<br>Nj<br>That's funny your in the same field
<p>I'm long out of the OR. I spent the last 20 years in Pain Management. </p><p>Specialized in high risk opioid management. Still travel a lot but have wound down considerably. </p><p>It's a small world! :)</p>
<p>Wow yet again. What is your background that allows such simple yet sophisticated designs?</p>
I was an engineering major, but I practice medicine. BTW, they do not teach this in engineering school. I just figured it out and got a little help on specific questions along the way.
<p>imsmooth: what kind of medicine? I'm an anesthesiologist by profession but PChem grad studies prior. :)</p><p>Small world!</p>
<p>Nice !</p><p>any chance this could be modified to generate Argon Gas, for my MIG welder :-)</p>
<p>I am NOT a welder, not by any means, my grandfather was, and to an extent my sister is, but I've not been lucky enough to get the chance to learn...... but I have seen and heard of people using CO2 gas in place of Argon when in places where it was harder to acquire Argon .... I'll bet there is enough CO2 in regular air that you could filter it out in a way like this..... although I'll bet there are cheaper n' easier ways to get some CO2 than using a system like this.... and I'm sure there are variables that make straight CO2 not great or everybody would use it in place of Argon. </p>
I don't believe you can separate argon with a sieve. I did not come across this. Industrially, air is liquefied and the other gases are separated with fractionation.
<p>Oh . Just thought there would be a big market for cheap argon given that its used in manufacturing, welding etc.</p><p> Down here (Australia) you have to factor in cylinder rental and all up the cost can come in high.</p><p>So for small companies already struggling its another cost to worry about.</p><p>Even more so for third world countries.</p><p>When you consider that Argon is all around us, its would be nice if someone could come up with a cheap DIY process </p>
<p>hey I just realised something, Argon is used as a shielding gas because its Inert.</p><p> Isn't Nitrogen also Inert? I wonder if it can be used for shielding?</p>
<p>Yes and no, technically nitrogen is pretty darn reactive, however it is so reactive that it loves to bond with itself, forming a nitrogen molecule of 2 nitrogen atoms. This is why industry typically refers to nitrogen as 'N2.' Now this nitrogen molecule is so stable that it is considered to be inert, and often considered to be on par with inert noble gases such as Argon...</p><p>(I could add the caveat that many modern day physicists have managed to create unlikely circumstances that change alot of the old rules; but for the overwhelming vast majority of us N2 (and all the noble gases)is inert...)</p>
<p>It can be</p>
<p>The question I've been wanting to ask is: Are these CMS grains the same thing used in a 'membrane filter?'</p>
<p>O2 gets into the grain's pores and binds to them. With a filter the smaller N2 gets through the filaments more than the O2 which exits out a different port. Membranes are very expensive.</p>
<p>For those who wish to somehow harness the waste gas (Oxygen); (and quite possibly why the author may not have explained it too much) Just be advised that 100% oxygen (particularly pressurized) IS highly reactive (dangerous) and requires a bit more training, preparation, and specifications,etc...</p><p>Specifically there are cleanliness standards that need to be striclty adhered to.</p><p>Specifically the piping, valves, storage tanks, etc. need to be very clean and free of any oil/grease.</p><p>I myself am interested in the O2 harnessing capabilities; mostly as a prepper; I tend to believe the earth once had an atmoshere of 35% Oxygen (currently @ 21%) which supported life of dinosaurs....It was a meteor impact which consumed so much oxygen that most dinosaurs died...Some experts say we are due for another meteor strike; It may someday be necessary to produce a bit of extra O2...</p>