Is it really possible for humans to breathe liquid oxygen, like in The Abyss?

I was watching The Abyss the other day, and the thing that struck me was the part where Ed Harris puts on the special “deep-dive” suit and begins breathing that reddish liquid, which I think was supposed to be some kind of oxygen. Was that some complete bullshit that James Cameron made up for the movie or is it based in fact?

I seem to remember a news story some years back about some rats that were able to breathe underwater and survive, but I don’t think they got to testing it out on people.

Well, it IS carcegenic to people IIRC so I din’t think anybody is rushing for clincial trials right now. In theory, a Human could survive and one of the major uses would be to provide an artifical womb for babies.

BTW: It is not liquid oxygen which is a VERY different thing.

Some intrepid dude figured it all out for us already. Check this
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As far as the liquid breathing rats goes, well, I saw it once on “That’s Incredible!” But I guess that part was less incredible than most of the show was.

Hey, and welcome to the SDMB! Good question.

Well, that went over like a LOX balloon. Here’s the whole junky page, which you can copy and paste into your browser. It is thin on primary citations, though.

First, you would somehow have to develop a form of oxygen that was liquid at normal pressures (to avoid destroying aveolar walls) and temperatures (to prevent freezing tissues on contact). Maybe it would be O[sub]9[/sub];)?
Second, the liquid would have to be able to perfuse across the aveolar and capillary walls.
Third, the oxygen would have to be able to be released from the liquid form and taken up by hemoglobin.
Fourth, the liquid would have to be able to be removed from the lungs once the subject returned to a normal atmosphere.
In short, it may be feasible, but I’m not holding my breath for it.:rolleyes:

Shalmanese is right, liquid oxygen is -187 degrees C (or colder) and it would wreck your lungs instantly.

But Alliance Pharmaceuticals has a liquid that is used for patients on artificial respirators. According to their website, this liquid opens collapsed alveoli and protects lungs from damage caused by conventional respirators.

According to a diver forum, one problem with breathing liquid is that it takes an enormous amount of effort to expand the lungs.

Not too long ago I saw a program on (I believe) Discovery or TLC in which one of the segments had to do with a baby who was born so prematurely that she had to be wrapped in Saran because her skin was not sufficiently developed to prevent dehydration. One of the many difficulties she faced was the fact that her lungs kept drying out–so the doctors decided, as a last resort, to fill them with hyperoxygenated fluid (the theory being that she would be able to absorb enough oxygen to survive, and by the time the fluid evaporated her lungs would have healed sufficiently to take over).

(They showed the “liquid breathing rats” too.)

Anyway, skip to the end of the segment, and a videotape of a healthy, active, and (as far as anyone can tell), normal 4-year-old. Damn, my allergies must have been really bad that evening: I had to keep wiping my eyes.

I’ve done a couple reports on this. The substance is a perfluorocarbon. It can dissolve oxygen and carbon dioxide, and is being explored as a possible blood substitute in addition to it being used in respirators. I’d give you more info, but I’m lazy.

Welcome, welcome

see that search button? I’ts cool. Hope that helps :slight_smile:

perflourocarbons, or perflubrons for short. one of my favorite substances. and favorite words. perflubrons.

they are liquid at room temp, but evaporate. the medical uses are for burn victims (those who have burndt the inside of their airways) and premature babies (those preemies whose lungs are not developed yet). and for floatin’ rats.


Has any healthy person ever voulantarily jumped into a vat of perflubron and lived to descrive the sensation afterwards?

I would imagine the inbuilt psychological defences would go nuts and it would be very hard to draw the first breath.

Brain: Your breathing WHAT now?

It would also be interesting to test whether an unsuspecting person being thrown into perflubron would drown before letting any of the liquid into their lungs?

They would pass out before they “drowned”, so they would just start breathing it in unsuspectingly. Plus I’m pretty sure that most people that die from drowning hold their breath as long as possible, then just give up and inhale a large amount of water. Then the fun part of the pressure+muscle relaxation= poopy.

I know many people hile learning to SCUBA dive have a similar sensation. It’s kind of one of those thing you learn from an early age doesn’t work (breathing under water) but if you just keep calm and do it it works just fine, I suspect attempting to inhale a breathable liquid would be similar, perhaps a bit more laborsome

Liquid oxygen is blue, not red. So shouldn’t the liquid in the movie have been blue, if it was oxygen-rich?

In the subtitle commentary on The Abyss, as I recall, it is mentioned that the oxygen-rich fluid they used was clear, really not distinguishable from water at all. They added pink coloring for the film so that the fluid would look “special”.

As I mentioned in the other thread, the rats in the film were really breathing the stuff. You can see his little sides going in and out. They would have liked to have a really long shot of the rat breathing “underwater” to show it off, but the rats kept panicking and defecating in the fluid, and rat shit just doesn’t go over well in the movies. So, they had to put the scene together from several different takes so there wouldn’t be any distracting “floaters”.

Another problem with breathing the fluid is that it strips the protective mucus that coats your lungs, leaving you prone to infections after you go back to breathing air. They gave the rats antibiotic injections, and they were fine.

Ed Harris, on the other hand, never breathed the stuff. They filled his suit with ordinary water, also colored pink, and he just held his breath. Sounds amazingly dangerous to me, but apparently Ed is a perfectionist. They toyed with the idea of a two-layer mask and filling the space in between, but that was scrapped because it wouldn’t have looked real.

According to the commentary on the DVD, the real fluid is clear, but they tinted it slightly pink so it would be visible.

Simulpost! And I typed really fast, too.

My blood, when oxygen rich, is red. My blood, when oxygen-depleted, is more along the lines of bluish.

It’s not that complex :slight_smile:

Blood is red because the oxygen in your blood is bound to iron. Unless the fluid had iron in it with the oxygen, there wouldn’t be any reason to suspect that it should be red also.

I’ll save the whoosh for later.