Hello! So recently I saw a post here on tumblr that said there was a perfluorocarbon liquid that actually allow you to breathe in it. But it seems weird you know. Have you ever heard anything about that? Thanks
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) are organofluorine compounds - they usually contain carbon and fluorine, though some contain one or two atoms of other elements. What all members of this family of compounds have in common is that respiratory gases (that is, oxygen and carbon dioxide) are very soluble in them - so much so, that in some cases these gases are actually more soluble in PFCs than blood.
For this reason, they can be utilised in a technique called liquid ventilation. The beginnings of research into liquid ventilation actually go back to the end of WW1, but it wasn’t until 1989 that human trials with PFCs began. Near-death babies afflicted by serious respiratory problems had their lungs filled with PFCs, and gas exchange was observed. This proved that liquid ventilation was a viable possibility, but as adult trials were rushed and less successful, it’s still considered experimental.
Some of the PFCs that have been trialled for liquid ventilation purposes are shown below:
The only issue with PFCs, stopping their more widespread use, is their high viscosity. This means it can’t easily remove carbon dioxide from the lungs, as it isn’t able to cycle through the lungs fast enough. To accomplish this, the fluid would need to be pumped through the lungs at a minimum rate of around 5 litres per minute; human lungs wouldn’t be strong enough for this to be possible. However, for medical purposes, the lungs of patients can be 40% filled with a PFC, and breathing remains possible.
References & Further Reading: