Partial pressure =
Concentration of dissolved gas Solubility coefficient
From this table, one can see that carbon dioxide is more than 20 times as soluble as oxygen. Therefore, the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (for a given concentration) is less than one twentieth that exerted by oxygen.
Diffusion of Gases Between the Gas Phase in the Alveoli and the Dissolved Phase in the Pulmonary Blood. The partial pressure of each gas in the alveolar respiratory gas mixture tends to force molecules of that gas into solution in the blood of the alveolar capillaries. Conversely, the molecules of the same gas that are already dissolved in the blood are bouncing randomly in the fluid of the blood, and some of these bouncing molecules escape back into the alveoli. The rate at which they escape is directly proportional to their partial pressure in the blood.
But in which direction will net diffusion of the gas occur? The answer is that net diffusion is determined by the difference between the two partial pressures. If the partial pressure is greater in the gas phase in the alveoli, as is normally true for oxygen, then more molecules will diffuse into the blood than in the other direction. Alternatively, if the partial pressure of the gas is greater in the dissolved state in the blood, which is normally true for carbon dioxide, then net diffusion will occur toward the gas phase in the alveoli.
When nonhumidified air is breathed into the respiratory passageways, water immediately evaporates from the surfaces of these passages and humidifies the air. This results from the fact that water molecules, like the different dissolved gas molecules, are continually escaping from the water surface into the gas phase. The partial pressure that the water molecules exert to escape through the surface is called the vapor pressure of the water. At normal body temperature, 37°C, this vapor pressure is 47 mm Hg. Therefore, once the gas mixture has become fully humidified—that is, once it is in "equilibrium" with the water—the partial pressure of the water vapor in the gas mixture is 47 mm Hg. This partial pressure, like the other partial pressures, is designated Ph2o.
The vapor pressure of water depends entirely on the temperature of the water. The greater the temperature, the greater the kinetic activity of the molecules and, therefore, the greater the likelihood that the water molecules will escape from the surface of the water into the gas phase. For instance, the water vapor pressure at 0°C is 5 mm Hg, and at 100°C it is 760 mm Hg. But the most important value to remember is the vapor pressure at body temperature, 47 mm Hg; this value appears in many of our subsequent discussions.
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