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Researchers Use Artificial Lung to Fight Pollution

Update Date: Sep 09, 2013 08:33 AM EDT

Over the past few decades, the importance of slowing down pollution and preventing greenhouse gases from destroying the world's climate has been one of the top goals for many politicians throughout the world. Programs that encourage recycling and promote more earth-conscious activities, such as biking or carpooling to work, all aim to help reduce gases that not only lead to global warming, but can also harm people's health. In a new study researching how to control this global issue, researchers attempted to create an artificial lung that would be capable of filtering out carbon dioxide (CO2) and prevent the gas from further contaminating the world.

"We're trying to learn from nature," explained Aaron P. Esser Kahn Ph.D. "The goal is to cram as much surface area into the smallest space possible."

For this innovation, the Esser-Kahn group from the University of California, Irvine observed the blood vessels in the lungs of bird and the swim bladder in fish, which are two animals that are highly capable of exchanging the two gases of CO2 and oxygen efficiently. The lungs in birds are responsible for filtering out CO2 at a fast rate in order to inhale oxygen while they are flying. In fish, the bladder is capable of maintaining the amount of CO2 while moving up and down the waters.

The researchers noticed that in both animals, the vessels are packed quite differently. In each animal, the researchers found that there were nine possible patterns that they could use in creating an artificial device that would filter out CO2. In order to determine which patterns would help the research team the most, the team conducted computer simulations that outlined the efficiency of gas exchange. The researchers created the double-squarer pattern, which is not directly from nature but copied from the fish swim bladder. After creating miniature units, the researchers found that the double-squarer pattern was almost 50 percent more effective in exchanging gases than the bird's lung and the fish's bladder were capable of.

The researchers hope that by adjusting the model, they could produce a new device that would change how climate changes and global warming are handled in the future. If the model could be perfected, it would be placed in the smoke sacks, also known as the chimneys, of factories and industries where it can filter the greenhouse gas. The report done on this new filter system was presented at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ASC), which involves over 7,000 presentations.

The press release can be found here

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