Essential Tech Centre
GlobalO2 main pic.jpg


Improving access to medical oxygen

“Without oxygen, we die. This may seem obvious, but in many health facilities around the world, access to lifesaving medical oxygen is often unavailable and underfunded.” – Philippe Duneton, Takeshi Akahori and Patrick Amoth.

Oxygen is an essential medicine for the treatment of many life-threatening conditions prevalent in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), yet it remains out of reach for the vast majority of those who need it. For the population that lives outside of cities, access to oxygen is even more scarce, exacerbated by fragile transport, power, and healthcare infrastructure.

The challenge : Lack of access to medical oxygen

 The lack of reliable oxygen sources in LMICs can be attributed to, on the one hand, poor supply chain and high costs that make provision of compressed air cylinders impracticable and, on the other, technical issues that defeat traditional oxygen delivery equipment. The oxygen concentrators that are the main source of oxygen in LMICs have a high failure rate because they: 

  • Are designed for residential use in high-income countries 
  • Require continuous and stable power
  • Are susceptible to high humidity and heat
  • Lack service networks for preventive and urgent maintenance
globalO2 before image.png
Unusable oxygen concentrators photographed in a low-income setting. (c) Gene Saxon
globalO2 before image.JPG
In South Sudan, a mother holds her infant suffering from respiratory distress. (c) ICRC

Our adapted solution : Oxygen provision services and adapted oxygen concentrator

An innovative oxygen concentrator with extremely reduced power consumption, resilient to power cuts, and humidity-resistant sieve beds, integrated into a comprehensive fee-for-service model integrating equipment, training and maintenance.

global O2 after image.png
Concept model for the GlobalO2 oxygen concentrator
2 prototype sieve beds.2.jpg
Sieve beds in working prototype

Project status


On the tech side, our latest achievements are the following:

  • We built a proof-of-concept of a robust power supply, integrating batteries that provide 2 hours of autonomy.
  • The power supply further demonstrates extremely reduced power consumption, complying with the Unicef requirement.
  • A new material was developed using hydrophobic coating, which demonstrated humidity resistance.
  • The integration of internal sensors allows continuous oxygen purity display as well as remote monitoring of the device.

On the fee-for-service model research side, these are the latest results:

  • More than 100 pieces of medical equipment, including oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters, were installed in 20 primary healthcare facilities in Bungoma County, Kenya.
  • Clinical application training was provided to 66 healthcare workers, technical training was provided to 16 biomedical engineers.
  • Using this infrastructure, over 30’000 patients were screened over 6 months, out of which more than 300 were treated. Around 300’000 liters of oxygen were provided to these patients.
  • A 3-tiered maintenance procedure was implemented, leveraging the biomedical engineers already employed in the 20 facilities, strengthened by the training provided.
  • Dramatic reduction of referrals to higher level hospitals: less than 25% of cases were referred, and less than 5% of these due to oxygen.


The next phase of research and development will focus on the remote monitoring of the device and on mainstreaming the manufacturing process of the humidity-resistant material. This will then enable the transfer of this technology to an industrial partner.


Project coordinator

Matthieu Gani

Partners & supporters

Our supporters and partners are indispensable to this project’s success. Working with partners including those of the local environment and end users, enables critical interdisciplinary skills and various perspectives.

Laboratory for Functional Inorganic Materials (LFIM), Prof. Wendy Queen

EPFL Power Electronics Lab (PEL), Prof. Mario Paolone

EssentialMed Foundation, Mr. Matthieu Gani

Center for Public Health and Development (CPHD), Dr. Bernard Olayo


Image copyrights: Adobe, Sylvain Liechti, ICRC, EssentialTech

EssentialTech Centre

essentialtech [at]
+41 21 693 60 68
Mailing address:
Station 10
1015 Lausanne (Switzerland)
Physical address:
EPFL Lausanne Campus
CM 2-303
Meet our team
Sustainable Development goalds