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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

thank you sooo much bro
Fatima Reply
helloo
Sentamu
Fatima hw a u
Sentamu
hii
Shubham
any one elaborate fr me foramens of the skull and features which they transmit
Sentamu
icant undrestand plz
zahruuzh Reply
try to read I hop you will understand
state and explain 20 radiology uses
ILYAS Reply
what are chemicals in anatomy and physiology?
Mike Reply
what can I do to find it easy for me in anatomy and physiology course
Mike
study up on the basics of the periodic chart, learn bones and muscles attachments, and learn muscles. Those take the longest to memorize. After that it should be a little easier.
Toni
what are the two types of body cells
Jennifer Reply
what is malnutrition
Claire
malnutrition refers to faulty nutrition resulting from malabsorption,poor diet or overeating. Sometimes too these food do not contain all the six food nutrients in their right proportion.
Yakubu
thank you
Claire
welcome
Yakubu
Will u be malnourished?
Baigwa
gud
Budumari
What's the difference between radiology and radiology
gabriel
Nothing! Radiology it means the study or using of radiation in medical science it can be 1.diagnose or treatment diagnosed radiology! x- ray. ultrasound. ct-scan. mammogram. MRI. 2. treatmen- radiation oncology, like Cobalt 60. and nuclear medicine
Larry
what is X-ray?
Nissar
X-ray is type of light that make it possible to see inside any object. as human body
KUNDAN
How the nervous system develops
ayiesher Reply
From the cells at the back of an embryo
Mma
breifly explain anatomy of thorax
Hadiza Reply
How many region the rib is divided
Konneh
how many bon of human being
Nura
206
John
how to study for the skeletal system
ryaisha
and anatomy
ryaisha
I really need sources immediately
ryaisha
I printed out all the different bones. Put them in the see through protective sheaths and got dry erase markers. I could right on them and erase to help me learn to spell the names of markings and bones.
Toni
Or go to a book store, Barnes and Noble(doesn't have to be this) and they have coloring books for anatomy. $16. Really helpful.
Toni
okay thanks and are what study tools you use to study the materials and get a better understanding
ryaisha
*what are
ryaisha
hiii
Roopa
I prefer diagrams, pictures that lay out each step with the information in each step. For Example: how action potential creates muscles to move. A pictured diagram gives me a better understanding of how each piece plays a role in each step of the process.
Toni
Also for basics, such as memorizing vocab. Flash cards are great. Don't become discouraged if you don't get them all right the first times through. The more you go through them, your brain will remember pieces of information from each and help you to pull out the information 😉
Toni
okay thanks
ryaisha
what is the functions of the lips in human
Momboi Reply
could I say sensation?
Sovilace
kissing
Obrian
for protection
Omar
Lips assist in speech and eating
Cindy
Too many easy questions. Which bones are the axial and appendicular? What are the abbreviations for TEE, TTE, AED, A-Mode, B-Mode, and LTH? What is the difference between hypothalamus and thalamus? Where is the parathyroid located? How many True Ribs do we have?
Sovilace Reply
Transesophageal echocardiography Transthoracic Echocardiography automated external defibrillator brightnees mode Los Hermanos Taverna
Inam
what is anatomy
okello Reply
anatomy is scientific study of body structures and how they relate to each other
Skeater
Are there other functions of the nucleolus apart from synthesis of RNA and formation of ribosomes
Peninah Reply
plays a role in cell response to stress
airiz
what is angle of auscultation
Bryan Reply
Anatomy which is the study of the human body structure has a couple of reasons it is been studied It helps to discover genetic disease cytology And histology which is the study of tissues Physiology is the study of function of the human cells It helps to know how the different body part works Its helps to know how part of the brain works And lastly It gives the essential to understand more about anatomy
Stephen Reply
describe the external features of a spinal cord
okoche Reply
Spinal nerves emerge in pairs, one from each side of the spinal cord along its length. The cervical nerves form a plexus (a complex interwoven network of nerves—nerves converge and branch). The cervical enlargement is a widening in the upper part of the spinal cord (C 4–T 1). Nerves that extend in
Inam
Hormones regulate certain target cell responses. These can include which of the following?
Nazareth Reply
describe the external features of spinal cord
okoche

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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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