1 Respiration


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The air we breathe in is 21% O2 and 79% N2, (neglecting humidity).   When the air reaches the lungs, some of this oxygen is transferred to the blood, and is then transported throughout the body to be used for energy.  In addition, the blood contains some carbon dioxide (a waste product) that is transferred to the air in the lungs, and  then exhaled.  The result is that the exhaled air contains less oxygen and more carbon dioxide than the inhaled air. 

The air in the lungs also becomes humidified with water before it is exhaled.  In fact, exhaled air is completely saturated with water it contains the maximum amount of moisture, and is therefore has a relative humidity of 100%.  We lose water as we breathe!  The typical composition of exhaled air is about 18% O2, 78% N2, and 4.0% CO2

We will perform an experiment to measure the air flow rate during breathing, and the oxygen and carbon dioxide content of the exhaled air.  We will apply the ideal gas law and material balances to determine the rates at which oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the lungs and the body.

Class Materials

bullet Laboratory Handout
bullet Supplemental Handout
bulletEngineering principles and sample calculations
bullet Respiration Module Evaluation

Helpful Resources

bulletHow Your Lungs Work
bulletVery useful background information on the lungs from HowStuffWorks
bullet Respiration
bulletExcellent overview of the respiratory system from the Franklin Institute
bulletU.S. Patent and Trademark Office
bulletSearchable patent database

Further Reading


Adams, Gene. Exercise Physiology Laboratory Manual.  W.C.B. McGraw Hill, New York: 1998.


Cooney, David. Biomedical Engineering Principles: An Introduction to Fluid, Heat, and Mass Transport Processes. Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York: 1976.

bulletMcArdle, W.D., F.I. Katch, and V.L. Katch. Exercise Physiology:  Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance. 4th edition, Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia, PA: 1996
bulletWest, John B., Respiratory Physiology:  The Essentials, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Philadelphia, 2000.

Artificial Lungs


Hollow Fiber Artificial Lung

Beyond 2000 Article


BBC Article


University of Pittsburgh Press Release


Artificial Lung Patents

Search the USPTO database for artificial lung patents


The MC3 Artificial Lung

An implantable/paracorporeal artificial lung

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This site was last updated 02/15/02

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