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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Compare the composition of atmospheric air and alveolar air
  • Describe the mechanisms that drive gas exchange
  • Discuss the importance of sufficient ventilation and perfusion, and how the body adapts when they are insufficient
  • Discuss the process of external respiration
  • Describe the process of internal respiration

The purpose of the respiratory system is to perform gas exchange. Pulmonary ventilation provides air to the alveoli for this gas exchange process. At the respiratory membrane, where the alveolar and capillary walls meet, gases move across the membranes, with oxygen entering the bloodstream and carbon dioxide exiting. It is through this mechanism that blood is oxygenated and carbon dioxide, the waste product of cellular respiration, is removed from the body.

Gas exchange

In order to understand the mechanisms of gas exchange in the lung, it is important to understand the underlying principles of gases and their behavior. In addition to Boyle’s law, several other gas laws help to describe the behavior of gases.

Gas laws and air composition

Gas molecules exert force on the surfaces with which they are in contact; this force is called pressure. In natural systems, gases are normally present as a mixture of different types of molecules. For example, the atmosphere consists of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and other gaseous molecules, and this gaseous mixture exerts a certain pressure referred to as atmospheric pressure ( [link] ). Partial pressure ( P x ) is the pressure of a single type of gas in a mixture of gases. For example, in the atmosphere, oxygen exerts a partial pressure, and nitrogen exerts another partial pressure, independent of the partial pressure of oxygen ( [link] ). Total pressure is the sum of all the partial pressures of a gaseous mixture. Dalton’s law    describes the behavior of nonreactive gases in a gaseous mixture and states that a specific gas type in a mixture exerts its own pressure; thus, the total pressure exerted by a mixture of gases is the sum of the partial pressures of the gases in the mixture.

Partial Pressures of Atmospheric Gases
Gas Percent of total composition Partial pressure
(mm Hg)
Nitrogen (N 2 ) 78.6 597.4
Oxygen (O 2 ) 20.9 158.8
Water (H 2 O) 0.04 3.0
Carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) 0.004 0.3
Others 0.0006 0.5
Total composition/total atmospheric pressure 100% 760.0

Partial and total pressures of a gas

The left panel of this figure shows a canister of oxygen. The middle panel shows a canister of nitrogen. The right panel shows a canister containing a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen. A pressure gauge on each container shows the pressure exerted by the gas in that container.
Partial pressure is the force exerted by a gas. The sum of the partial pressures of all the gases in a mixture equals the total pressure.

Partial pressure is extremely important in predicting the movement of gases. Recall that gases tend to equalize their pressure in two regions that are connected. A gas will move from an area where its partial pressure is higher to an area where its partial pressure is lower. In addition, the greater the partial pressure difference between the two areas, the more rapid is the movement of gases.

Solubility of gases in liquids

Henry’s law    describes the behavior of gases when they come into contact with a liquid, such as blood. Henry’s law states that the concentration of gas in a liquid is directly proportional to the solubility and partial pressure of that gas. The greater the partial pressure of the gas, the greater the number of gas molecules that will dissolve in the liquid. The concentration of the gas in a liquid is also dependent on the solubility of the gas in the liquid. For example, although nitrogen is present in the atmosphere, very little nitrogen dissolves into the blood, because the solubility of nitrogen in blood is very low. The exception to this occurs in scuba divers; the composition of the compressed air that divers breathe causes nitrogen to have a higher partial pressure than normal, causing it to dissolve in the blood in greater amounts than normal. Too much nitrogen in the bloodstream results in a serious condition that can be fatal if not corrected. Gas molecules establish an equilibrium between those molecules dissolved in liquid and those in air.

Questions & Answers

Card 5 / 12: For whom would an appreciation of the structural characteristics of the human heart come more easily: an alien who lands on Earth, abducts a human, and dissects his heart, or an anatomy and physiology student performing a dissection of the heart on her very first day of class? Why?
Gelowe Reply
what are regular shaped cells with granules in the cytoplasam
Kabita Reply
PMNL
Dinu
I need sylubuss of clinical officers book
Omary Reply
cholesterol normal value is
BISWANATH Reply
less than 200mg/dl
Ashis
100 to159mg/dL
Dinu
Early this wk. I had some "A & P" questions & answers unfortunately didn't save them, Is there any way I can have them back ,so as 2 save them?. Thnx.
Kechi
what are the functions of the female reproductive system
Lister Reply
it produces the female egg necessary for reproduction, called the Ova or Oocytes. The system is designed to transport the Ova to the site of fertilization.
Kechi
Female reproductive system was mainly functioned to produce ova(ovum) (female eggs) Into which will be fertilized by male gamete to produce zygote
Omary
absolutely right
nimco
wa qalad nimco rage iska hubi
Khaliil
waxwalba ka fikirbay ubaahantahay
Ahmed
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacdat
Khaliil
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacday
Khaliil
wxayaabaha qaarkood waaa in aan u feejignaano
Ahmed
asc if I try female reproductive system has two function the first is to produce egg cell and the second is to protact and nourish the offspring until birth
Muriidi
what is stercobilinogen
Hancerich Reply
fecal urobilinogen. Created by bacteria in the gut. a chemical that gives feces brown color.
Blayne
next question pls.
Kechi
The rate of diffusion increases if the
stella
What's the answer?
Kechi
it's a breaking down of haemoglobin and it's a chemical made by bacteria
Dev
Thnx Dev Raj.
Kechi
yup so any more
Dev
yes I sure do need more "Questions" & "Answers". I'm learning whole lot. Thnx.
Kechi
what is the greatest muscle of the body
Lungu Reply
gluteus maximus
ABDULLAH
pls!!! more "A&P" questions & answers. Thnx.
Kechi
Gluteus maximus
THE
Describe anatomy of cardiovascular system?
cardiovascular system is a group of organs coming together to perform the circulation of blood. The organs invoked are the heart and the blood vessels with blood being the tissue. The heart is a pump and it pumps oxygenated blood through the systemic circuit and deoxygenated blood through the pulmon
bernard
pulmonary circuit.
bernard
more A&P questions pls. Thnx.
Kechi
If an ANOVA yields a significant F value, you could rely on ________ to test significant differences between group means.
Dane Reply
what's ANOVA
Cassandra
analysis of variance
Blayne
plz what you mean with "ANOVA" first
Fatima
anova means analysis of variance, a statistical method in which the variation in a set of observations is divided into distinct components.
Blayne
M value ot test
ABDULLAH
What does it mean by M value ot test?
Orpha
formation of red blood cells
Biketi Reply
explain why... lower back pain in ovarian cancer
Srijoni Reply
we says that protoplasm is the living part of us How?
Muzamil Reply
is the leaving part of our cellular structure.
Eric
it is the leaving part of our blood cellular structure also
ABDULLAH
what is receptor?
Preity Reply
an organ or cell able to respond to light, heat, or other external stimulus and transmit a signal to a sensory nerve.
Jessi
Has anyone taken the first exam?
Sandra
yes
yahye
yes
Allan
hey what is the process after your food is swallowed? how long does it take to get to the stomache until it is released as waste?
Fednise Reply
that is such a broad question. as you begin to swallow its various doses down the alimentary canal that brings the food into your stomach.then depending on whether it's a protein carbohydrate fat that dictates what function takes place in your stomach. these are all steps of digestion.
Joseph
typo sorry it's peristalsis , wave-like projections that push food down your alimentary canal etc. digestion starts in your mouth ends in your large intestines (colon anus)
Joseph
some of the many processes of digestion include hydrolysis dehydration synthesis denaturation of proteins etc. you have to be more specific.
Joseph
there's many different contributing factors the how long it takes food to convert into waste. remember fats, triglycerides proteins and carbohydrates all breakdown two different monomers and structures. you should be looking up metabolic processes.
Joseph
depending how much fiber you have in your diet dictates how much water is brought to your intestines that has to do with excretion whether fiber is insoluble or soluble. this is an anatomy and physiology app. to simply say the stomach will empty its contents in 2 to 3 hours would do you a disservice
Joseph
can the study of anatomy relate to medical technologies
Lean Reply
yes
Khh
absolutely
Jessi
yes...
Sherif
how can I understand micro biology and anatomy better.
Cassandra
yes
Kevin
someone to help me understand glycogeneogenesis
abel
what are the major branches of the aorta?
Kevin
look youtube video
Jessi

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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