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Explain how the structure of the mammalian lung is adapted for rapid gaseous exchange

Gaseous exchange occurs in tiny air sacs known as alveoli [ CITATION Ann08 \l 1033 ], the
alveolis walls are one cell thick; one layer of epithelial cell (CGP). This therefore produces
a short diffusion path for gas exchange. The rate of diffusion is dependent on 3 things;
surface area, concentration gradient and the thickness of the gas exchange surface.

Surface area, Alveoli provides an enormous surface area[ CITATION Ann08 \l 1033 ]. Large
organisms like the lung require a large surface area to volume to allow the exchange of
gasses. The rate of diffusion is directly proportional to the surface area. This means that if
diffusion increases so does the surface area.

Concentration gradient however is when the rate of diffusion is directly proportional to the
difference in concentration across the gas exchange surface (CGP). This means that the
greater the concentration gradient is the faster diffusion will occur.

Blood is continuously flowing around through the capillaries past the alveoli [ CITATION
Ann08 \l 1033 ] the flow does no stop as it maintains the concentration gradient on the
capillary side. The more blood flowing through the capillaries past the alveoli means they
take away a lot more of the oxygen and bringing in more carbon dioxide at a quicker pace
whilst maintaining the concentration gradient. Movement of gasses in and out of the alveoli
is mainly by diffusion[ CITATION Ann08 \l 1033 ] However movement of air particles in and
out of the lungs is a mass transport system[ CITATION Ann08 \l 1033 ]

The walls of the alveoli are one cell thick allowing a short diffusion pathway. Rate of
diffusion is inversely proportional to the thickness of the exchange surface. This means that
the thicker the surface the slower the diffusion, as per calculations the distance actually
being travelled is 0.5-1.5 um[ CITATION Ann08 \l 1033 ].

As mentioned before the exchange of gases at the alveolar surfaces in the lungs happens by
passive diffusion alone, however moving the air throughout the lungs and to the external
environment is called breathing. There are 2 parts to the process of breathing taking air
into the chest is inhaling and breathing air out again is exhaling [ CITATION Ann08 \l 1033 ].
When breathing occurs within the lungs pressure changes in the chest which therefore bring
the movements of the air.

The movements occurring during inhalation result in the


volume within the chest to increase which reduces the pressure
in the cavity. The pressure now is lower than the pressure of
the atmospheric air outside, so air moves in through the
trachea, bronchi and bronchioles in the lungs to equalise the
pressure inside and out[ CITATION Ann08 \l 1033 ]. However,
during exhalation, the volume of the chest decreases causing
an increase in pressure. The pressure in the chest cavity is now
greater than that of the outside air, so therefore air moves out
of the lungs, through the bronchioles, bronchi and trachea to
the outside air [ CITATION Ann08 \l 1033 ]