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Continuous-flow lungs

Better by design
  (+10, -2)(+10, -2)
(+10, -2)
  [vote for,

Mammalian respiration is cyclic, a bit like a piston engine (suck, blow).

Piston engines are less efficient than turbines which have continuous flow.

This idea is for a prosthesis manufactured in the laboratory from the recipient's own stem cells, consisting of a framework of tubes matching the lungs and trachea down to the level of alvaeolae, as detemined by MRI.

The exit of the trachea is brought externally to a discreet tracheotomy in the upper chest, into which a tube can be plugged when required.

The tube is connected to a reversible blower system. When the system applies pressure, the user is enabled to exhale continuously, allowing for new techniques of vocal sound production; or superior HEPA filters would prevent pollen etc. entering the body. In very cold conditions, air can be pre-warmed to prevent damage from frostbite.

When running, the pump is switched to suction mode.

Also useful for those with damage to spinal nerves who require respiratory support.

8th of 7, Jul 22 2013

Bird lungs http://en.wikipedia...ki/Lung#Avian_lungs
use air sacs like bellows to move air unidirectionally through the air-exchange region [Loris, Jul 22 2013]

Generic Organ Construction http://www.popsci.c...icates-organs-order
As mentioned in an annotation. [Vernon, Jul 23 2013]

Continuous-flow heart http://www.npr.org/...f-new-lease-on-life
[ytk, Jul 24 2013]


       This is an excellent idea, surprisingly.   

       As a bonus, it might allow gill-like respiration in a suitably oxygenated liquid, since the force required to move liquid to and fro is a major limitation in traditional lungs.   

       As yet another bonus, a turbo-booster might allow some kind of jet propulsive respiration.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 22 2013

       I think the difficulty with this would be the surgery connecting up all the millions of tiny alveoli.
This isn't going to be viable with current technology.

       Birds have lungs with directional flow like you're looking for. They are reported to be considerably more efficient. It might be easier to grow up replacement lungs from the patients tissue along the lines of the avian lung, and perform a direct internal swap.
Loris, Jul 22 2013


       (1) Replace the pleural fluid (which surrounds the lungs, between two pleural membranes) with an open-cell foam.   

       (2) Install a suitable connection to the pleural cavity and remove the fluid.   

       (3) Apply a few bar overpressure to the lungs. This should blow out all the alveoli and, with a bit of luck, drive channels through into the pleural space.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 22 2013

       Recent advances in organ-construction from stem- cell tissue (upon a synthetic scaffold) may allow lungs to be designed that are different from what the DNA is programmed to develop. So, the trachea could divide down to the alveoli level, and from there the pneumatic pathways reconnect to form an "exit" trachea.   

       Then add a one-way valve, like a heart valve, and implant the whole thing, with the new tube connected, say, at belly-button level. The diaphragm muscle does a normal inhale, but the exhale is blocked by the valve; the air has to go out the new tube instead. It should be obvious that we want these lungs installed so that the INTAKE is the LOWER opening, else we would lose the ability to talk as we exhale.
Vernon, Jul 23 2013

       yeah I could use one of these. There were some classical composers who didn't think that choristers had to actually breathe occasionally.
FlyingToaster, Jul 24 2013

       //There were some classical composers who didn't think that choristers had to actually breathe occasionally.//   

       You can breathe when you're dead… Oh wait…   

       Anyway, the idea apparently works for hearts (link), why not lungs too?
ytk, Jul 24 2013

       kind like fish?
popbottle, Jul 24 2013

       This idea sounds utterly practical to me. I wonder why this is not already in use. One need only add nitrous oxide. Bun! [+]   

       [Trivia Question: Do the Borg use lungs (their own, presumably) for breathing (as opposed to use of lungs as a marvelous sponge-like material for household tasks such as cleaning up breakfast dishes)? I ask merely out of curiosity, since much of what the Borg suggests is the result of intense objective study of (and/or) experimentation with our species. Or maybe cats.]
Grogster, Jul 24 2013

       Pop in a continous flow turbo-heart to go with this and you've got something here. [+]
doctorremulac3, Jul 24 2013

       Can we pop in a one-way check valve between our existing lungs and another such valve at the outlet of the right lung? A simple bit of training would allow you to inhale with the left lung, transfer the air to the right lung for final exhalation.
AusCan531, Jul 25 2013

       Great... now I'm gonna have to try and sleep through one long continuous snore.   

       Your own, presumably. The concept of any other specimen of Homo Sapiens being prepared to share sleeping quarters with you is just too sick and weird to contemplate.   

       "He'll have to sleep in the pigsty"
"But what about the smell ?"
"The pigs will just have to get used to it …"
8th of 7, Jul 25 2013

       T'would be pearls before the swine.   

       Politicians, auctioneers, lawyers [-]
Singing Handel's melismata[+]
Redesigning SCUBA equipment[??]
lurch, Jul 26 2013

       // Do the Borg use lungs (their own, presumably) for breathing (as opposed to use of lungs as a marvelous sponge-like material for household tasks such as cleaning up breakfast dishes)? //   

       Yes, we do.   

       // I ask merely out of curiosity, //   

       Dangerous thing, curiosity.   

       // since much of what the Borg suggests is the result of intense objective study //   

       Of course it is.   

       // of (and/or) experimentation with our species.//   

       You say that like it's a bad thing.   

       // Or maybe cats.] //   

       "maybe" ? puh-lease ....
8th of 7, Jul 26 2013

       As described, it would increase water loss (and heat loss), because air would be expelled at close to body temperature and close to saturation. The nose warms and humidifies when breathing in, and cools and dehumidifies when breathing out.   

       The deluxe version would feature counter-current gas exchange in the lung (not even birds have that, although fish gills do), and counter-current heat and humidity exchange. Heat and water loss would then be much less than with the traditional configuration.
spidermother, Jul 30 2013

       //Piston engines are less efficient than turbines which have continuous flow// Sure?   

       Turbines can have tremendous power/weight or power/volume, can be very low maintenance. They're not used in applications where out-and- out efficiency reigns (cargo ships). At least for the combustion rather than recovery phase.   

       You would need two holes. Ask any medic, holes are trouble.   

       As mentioned, there will be additional water loss. I'm not sure about the flow dynamics, but I think that the inhale.... hold at moderately increased pressure for a moment... exhale.... system is quite well adapted for two way transfer of gasses, the little pause is something exotic piston engines try to replicate, provide a temporal opportunity for more complete reaction.
bs0u0155, Jul 31 2013

       From most to least efficient are (1) counter-current exchange (fish gills), (2) cross current exchange (bird lungs), (3) flood-and-drain (mammalian lungs). Our lungs are the way they are not because it's the best design, but because they evolved from an outpouching of the oesophagus of a fishy ancestor. They are an evolutionary cul-de-sac.
spidermother, Aug 01 2013

       I wonder if the subtle affects, of such a change, would flow down to the nuclei.
wjt, Aug 07 2013


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