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What is the best vacuum pump for medical use?

Many pump set-ups can be used successfully. The best choice depends on the needs of the application. Find out more about vacuum pumps.

What is the best compressor for medical air?

Medical air requires the highest levels of purity. High-stake applications such as medical air must be able to rely on air that is free from contaminant gases, dirt particles, oil or oil vapors. Compressed air needs to be dry to prevent corrosion of the piping.

Oil-free air, as generated by our oil-free pistons, scroll and tooth technology, is preferred in most medical applications. Oil-lubricated compressors and liquid ring machines can also be used successfully, where permitted by local standard.

How dry does medical air have to be?

Medical air does not gain any therapeutic value by being drier than necessary. "Necessary" means a dryness low enough to prevent liquid water to occur in the piping. Air that is drier than necessary is not only a waste of money and energy, but also requires you to rehydrate the air if your patients use it as breathing air.

Some standards have set the required dew point level to -40°C/F. That dew point however is based on the dew point achieved by a standard desiccant dryer, rather than the therapeutic optimal level for the patient.

Check the local standards in your country and contact us for the optimal solution.

Does medical air require purification?

Where standards for air purity exist or if the ambient air contains noxious components, air must be purified before it can be used to treat patients. Some international standards, particularly those based on ISO 7396, require purifications.

Clean and dry air is not only critical to protect your patients' health, it also ensures the working of your system.

Can refrigerant dryers be used for medical air?

Atlas Copco and others have moved away from refrigerant dryers as the preferred technology, since most standards require lower dew points.

Which standards regulate medical air systems?

There are plenty of standards in the medical industry. Some examples:

United Kingdom: HTM 02-01, previously HTM2022, updated to include requirements of ISO 7396-1.
The HTM standard sets out minimum safety and operating criteria. Atlas Copco's medical units meet and surpass these requirements, while at the same time excelling in quality, reliability and a consistent performance.

United States: NFPA 99

Some other standards:
- AS 2896 - Australia
- SANS 1408 - South Africa
- JIS T7101 - Japan
- SIS HB 370 - Sweden
- CAN/CSA - Z305.1-92 - Canada

Summary for all standards:
- Redundancy
- At least 3 sources (HTM 02-01/ISO 7396-1), at least 2 sources (NFPA/HTM 2022)
- Bacterial filters (HTM/ISO)
- Isolating valves
- Duplex receivers (HTM/ISO)
- Specific alarms (all standards)

Read more on medical regulations and how Atlas Copco handles them.

What is vacuum?

A vacuum is any pressure in a system that is less than the ambient atmospheric pressure. For medical applications the degree of vacuum is not very high.

There are two ways of measuring a vacuum pressure:
  • bar(e) the effective or gauge pressure denotes how much the pressure is below local atmospheric pressure.
  • bar(a) the absolute pressure denotes how much the pressure is above absolute zero vacuum.

Atmospheric pressure at sea level is approximately 1 bar or 1000 mbar. For typical medical applications a vacuum of 600 mbar below atmospheric pressure is required, which is denoted as -600 mbar(e).

How to measure flow rate of vacuum pumps?

Flowrate in vacuum applications can be calculated in two ways:

  • Displacement or Volumetric flowrate (Vsuction):
    – Constant motor speed + fixed pump chamber dimension = constant flowrate independent of vacuum level (in our relevant range)
    – Expression of flowrate inside the pipework at the governing vacuum pressure
  • Free Air Aspiration (FAA):
    – Number of molecules in that constant volume decrease with deeper vacuum = decreasing massflow with deeper vacuum
    – Volume flowrate stated at a fixed -600mbar(e) (-450mmHg) and referred to free air
  • Flow expressed as FAA < flow expressed as displacement