Hawk Talk

Liquid Air

By Jillian Mignogna

Do you ever wonder if it could ever be possible to be able to breathe underwater? Well it turns out that Dr. Leland Clark created “liquid air” in 1966. He realized that oxygen and carbon dioxide were very soluble in fluorocarbon liquids. All of this basically means that while submerged in  this liquid, our lungs are capable of taking oxygen out of this liquid and replacing it with carbon dioxide. So in the words of Junior Ana Hall, “Yes! Now my dreams of becoming a mermaid can finally come true!”

Swimming in her pool, Morgan Mignogna is pretending to be a mermaid over the summer.

Swimming in her pool, Morgan Mignogna is pretending to be a mermaid over the summer.

Liquid air has many uses. Although deep diving is a thrilling hobby, it presents many hazards. Diving becomes more dangerous as the water gets deeper and deeper. All air-breathing animals could get decompressed sickness from extreme underwater depths. Liquid breathing offers promising mobility available with flexible dive suits. With liquid in the lungs, the pressure in the divers lungs could accommodate changes in the pressure of the surrounding water without the huge gas pressure exposures required when the lungs are filled with gas.

A big problem arises from the high viscosity of the liquid and the corresponding reduction in its ability to remove CO2. This is a large amount of fluid to move, because liquids are thicker that gases, (for example water is about 850 times the thickness of air). Any increases in the diver’s metabolic activity also makes CO2 production and the breathing rate goes up, which already at the limits of realistic flow rates in liquid breathing. It seems improbable that a person would move ten liters a minute of liquid air without help from a mechanical ventilator, so “free breathing” may be unlikely. Senior Danielle Hammond Says, that breathing in water seems terrifying and drowning would always be on her mind.

The most promising use of liquid ventilation is in the field of medicine. the first medical use of liquid breathing was treatment of premature babies and adults with acute respiratory distress syndrome in the 1990s. Junior Justine Garcia says that it would be really amazing if we could save more people  because of liquid air. Clinical trials showed that using perflubron with ordinary ventilators made better outcomes as much as using high frequency oscillating ventilation (HFOV). but because  perfurbon wasnt better than HFOV, the FDA didn’t approve it and they are no longer pursuing the partial liquid ventilation application. Whether perflubron would improve outcomes when used with HFOV or has fewer long-term problems that HFOV remains an open question.

Twisting and twirling in the air, Jillian Mignogna celebrates her sixteenth birthday on a biplane over the Cocoa Beach Pier.

Twisting and twirling in the air, Jillian Mignogna celebrates her sixteenth birthday on a biplane over the Cocoa Beach Pier.

In space travel, liquid air provides a way to cut the physical stress of G forces. because liquids cannot be practically compacted, they don’t change density under high acceleration in space travel. A person in liquid of the same density as tissue has acceleration forces distributed around the body, and not applied at a single point such as a seat for harness strap.

 

Extending acceleration protection beyond twenty G requires filling the lungs with fluid of density similar to water. an astronaut in liquid will feel little effect from extreme G forces because the forces on a liquid are distributed in all directions simultaneously. However, effects will be felt because of density differences between different body tissues.

So now you decide for yourself if liquid air is beneficial or not to the world!

Sources consulted: www.dvice.com, science.howstuffworks.com, zibits.com, gizmodo.com

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