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By Susan, Ph.D. Whittemore

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This promotes gas exchange between the lungs and the circulatory system. pass through the pulmonary capillary wall, some interstitial fluid, and the alveolar membrane before reaching the air within the alveolus. In addition to the type I cells, there are type II alveolar epithelial cells , which secrete a fluid containing surfactants and are also involved in gas exchange. The function of surfactants is described in Chapter 7. 7 The respiratory membrane, through which gas must diffuse, consists of a single layer of flattened type I alveolar cells, interstitium, and the capillary endothelium or wall.

Modern-day respirators make use of positive pressure to drive air into the lungs rather than negative pressure applied to the chest. The design principle behind both of these “breathing machines” is the same; both create differences in air pressure to force air in and out of the lungs. 6 Shown here is a photograph of a polio patient making use of an iron lung, or negative pressure chamber, to assist with breathing. Such machines have since been replaced with positive pressure respirators that force air into the lung.

1 Boyle’s law describes the inverse relationship between the pressure exerted by a constant number of gas molecules and the volume those gas molecules occupy. An increase in the volume of a gas will cause a decrease in its pressure. hand, expiration or exhalation, the process of air moving out of the lungs, occurs when air pressure in the lungs is greater than atmospheric air pressure. Air will continue to flow either in or out of the lungs until air pressure in the lungs equals atmospheric pressure, or stated another way, until equilibrium with regard to air pressure is reached.

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