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What happens in the alveoli?

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Quick Answer

The exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen occurs in the alveoli of the lungs. Oxygen is taken into the body through the process of inhalation while carbon dioxide is eliminated through exhalation.

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Full Answer

The human respiratory system mainly functions to acquire essential oxygen from the outside air and to remove carbon dioxide from the body, which is a waste metabolic product of the cells. The primary organs that comprise the respiratory system include the nose, para-nasal sinuses, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchial tree, pleurae, lungs and alveoli. During inhalation and exhalation, oxygen and carbon dioxide go through a series of respiratory pathways.

The mechanism of the respiratory system follows a periodic pattern. When the body takes in oxygen, the air enters through the nasal cavity, which moistens and filters the air for foreign and harmful particles. The air then travels to the pharynx, down into the larynx and past the trachea. The bronchial tree allows the air to enter either the left or right lung. When air reaches the lungs, it is carried to tiny, sac-like structures called alveoli which are covered by numerous pulmonary capillaries. Oxygen from the atmosphere is then exchanged for carbon dioxide in the blood by inflating and deflating the alveoli. These mechanisms are governed by LaPlace's Law and surface tension. The newly oxygenated blood then travels throughout the circulatory system to transport oxygen to different organs and tissues. Carbon dioxide is expelled from the body when the alveoli are completely inflated during exhalation.

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Related Questions

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    What happens in the alveoli during gas exchange?

    A:

    During gas exchange, oxygen from the air breathed in diffuses into the bloodstream, and carbon dioxide from the bloodstream diffuses into the air in the alveoli. This gas exchange occurs through the thin wall of the alveoli.

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  • Q:

    Alveoli serve what function in the lungs?

    A:

    Pulmonary alveoli are the tiny sacs inside the lungs that fill with air with each breath and facilitate the exchange of gas with the blood. According to HowStuffWorks, the oxygen concentration in the alveoli is high, relative to that of the surrounding tissues, which permits easy passage to the blood.

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    What is the function of the bronchioles?

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    Bronchioles are tiny airways that carry oxygen to alveoli, or air sacs, in the lungs and help stabilize breathing in the respiratory system, according to About.com. Bronchioles are lined with smooth muscular walls that constrict or expand to regulate airflow and prevent irritants from passing further along the respiratory tract.

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    Why is respiration important for living things?

    A:

    Respiration is one of the requirements for living things because it is the process where organisms exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is related yet different from cellular respiration, which is the process where individual cells convert oxygen into carbon dioxide while converting food to energy.

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