Pure oxygen not required in a new artificial lung device

Lung DeviceJoseph Potkay from Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center (and a Research Assistant Professor in EECS) and his co-workers have developed a new artificial lung device that can use air as a ventilating gas instead of pure oxygen. The invention could mean that oxygen cylinders may no longer be needed in artificial lungs.  

Potkay and his co-workers created microfluidic channels and made them branch into smaller channels and then into artificial capillaries, similar to how arteries and capillaries work in a real lung.

With pig blood injected into the device fluid inlet they fed air into the gas inlet resulting in oxygen molecules diffusing across the gas exchange membrane into the blood on the way to the blood outlet. Blood coming from the inlet would typically be rich in carbon dioxide and would diffuse across the membrane to the air outlet. 

The device exhibited oxygen exchange efficiencies three to five times better than found in current devices in which pure oxygen is needed, enabling air to be used as the ventilating gas.  This is the first demonstration that features as small as those found in the lungs are effective.