Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Gas exchange

Gas exchange takes place at a respiratory surface - a boundary between the external environment and the interior of the body. For unicellular organisms the respiratory surface is simply the cell membrane, but for large organisms it is part of specialised organs like lungs, gills or leaves. This name can cause problems - in biology the word "respiration" can mean cellular respiration (ATP generation inside cells), however sometimes (such as here) it can also refer to breathing (which is how the word is most often used by non-biologists).

Gases cross the respiratory surface by diffusion, so from Fick's law we can predict that respiratory surfaces must have:

Many also have a mechanism to maximise the diffusion gradient by replenishing the source and/or sink.

This is a stub.