- The exchange of oxygen and dioxide occurs between the alveoli and the capillaries in the lungs
- Oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged in a process of simple diffusion; (passive movement from high to low concentration)
- The air in the alveoli contains a high concentration of oxygen. The oxygen diffuses from the alveoli and into the blood capillaries, before being carried away to the rest of the body for aerobic respiration
- The blood in the capillaries has a relatively low concentration of oxygen and a high concentration of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide diffuses from the blood and into the alveoli and is then exhaled
The movement of blood through the capillaries surrounding the alveoli maintains a concentration gradient to drive diffusion of oxygen into the blood
Remember that blood arriving to the lungs in capillaries is deoxygenated, while blood leaving the capillaries is oxygenated and returns to the left side of the heart.