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Investigating Breathing

Investigating Breathing

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Published by Sachitra Wijethunga

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Published by: Sachitra Wijethunga on Jun 04, 2011
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Edexcel practical materials created by Salters-Nueld Advanced Biology, ©University o York Science Education Group.
Practical 7.2
Investigating breathing
Using a spirometer
The apparatus shown below is a spirometer. Spirometers allow us to study both breathingand respiration. In this activity you will learn how a spirometer works and how to interpretthe spirometer trace that is produced.
 A spirometer 
The general principle behind a spirometer is simple. It is eectively a tank o water withan air-lled chamber suspended in the water. It is set up so that adding air to the chambermakes the lid o the chamber rise in the water, and removing air makes it all. Movementso the chamber are recorded using either a kymograph (pen writing on a rotating drum), achart recorder, computer or datalogger.
Use eye protection when handling soda lime.Soda lime is corrosive. Do not handle directly: use a spatula.A spirometer should only be used with supervision. I you havebreathing or circulation (heart) problems or suer rom epilepsy you should not use the spirometer. Read the manuacturer’sinstructions and saety notes beore using the equipment.Stop using the spirometer at once i you experience any unusualbreathing problems or eel dizzy or uncomortable.(Asthmatics may use a spirometer i they are otherwise in goodhealth.)A trained member o sta should use an oxygen cylinder to fllthe spirometer.
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Edexcel practical materials created by Salters-Nueld Advanced Biology, ©University o York Science Education Group.
Practical 7.2 (cont.)
Investigating breathing
Tubes run rom the chamber to a mouthpiece and back again. Breathing in and out throughthe tubes makes the lid o the chamber all and rise. The volume o air the person inhales andexhales can be calculated rom the distance the lid moves.The apparatus can be calibrated so that the movement o the lid corresponds to a givenvolume. A canister containing soda lime is inserted between the mouthpiece and the foatingchamber. This absorbs the CO
that the subject exhales. In which direction will the pen movewhen the subject inhales?
In order to interpret the spirometer trace you need to know what both the vertical and thehorizontal scales represent.
Finding the vertical scale
The vertical scale measures the volume o air in the chamber. The spirometer’s foating-chamber lid has markings on it showing how much gas it contains.
First, empty the chamber completely and, i using a kymograph, make a mark on thepaper while it is stationary, to show where the pen lies when there is no gas in the tank.Then orce a known volume o air into the tank (e.g. 500 cm
) and make a second mark on the kymograph trace.
Repeat this procedure until the chamber has been completely lled with air. I using akymograph, i the trace is too large or too small, the length o the arm supporting the pencan be adjusted so that the trace ts onto the paper.
Write the values next to your calibrating marks – they will help with interpretation o thetrace later. Once the marks have been made on the paper it should be possible to counthow many squares on the trace represent 1 dm
Finding the horizontal scale
On most kymographs there is a switch allowing you to set the speed at which the drum turns.Choose a speed close to 1 mm per second. This is your horizontal scale. Make a note o thespeed on your trace, so that the trace can be interpreted once the experiment is complete.
Collecting data on breathing
Ater calibration, the spirometer is lled with oxygen. A disinected mouthpieceis attached to the tube, with the tap positioned so that the mouthpiece is connected tothe outside air. The subject to be tested puts a nose clip on, places the mouthpiece intheir mouth and breathes the outside air until they are comortable with breathingthrough the tube.
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Edexcel practical materials created by Salters-Nueld Advanced Biology, ©University o York Science Education Group.
Practical 7.2 (cont.)
Investigating breathing
Switch on the recording apparatus and at the end o an exhaled breath turn the tap sothat the mouthpiece is connected to the spirometer chamber. The trace will move down asthe person breathes in. Ater breathing normally the subject should take as deep a breathas possible and then exhale as much air as possible beore returning to normal breathing.
 A sketch of a trace showing normal breathing and one forced breath in and out
A diagram o a spirometer trace is shown above. In this example the subject has breathed inand out normally three times, then taken as deep a breath in as possible, then orced the airrom their lungs. Several pieces o inormation about the subject’s breathing can be read o this kind o trace, or worked out rom it.
volume or most adults is only about 0.5 dm
one orced breath.
Minute ventilation
tidal volume
rate o breathing (measured in number o breathsper minute).Some air (about 1 dm
) always remains in the lungs as residual air and cannot be breathedout. Residual air prevents the walls o the bronchioles and alveoli rom sticking together. Anyair breathed in mixes with this residual air.
Collecting data on rate of respiration
Each time we take a breath, some oxygen is absorbed rom the air in the lungs into ourblood. An equal volume o carbon dioxide is released back into the lungs rom the blood.When we use the spirometer, each returning breath passes through soda lime, which absorbsthe carbon dioxide so, with the canister in place, less gas is breathed back into the spirometer
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