Problem: Why do deep-sea divers breathe a mixture of helium and oxygen?

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At 30 m, a scuba diver breathes air at a total pressure of 4.0 atm, making PO2 about 0.84 atm. 

  • This elevated partial pressure of oxygen raises the density of oxygen molecules in the lungs, resulting in a higher concentration of oxygen in body tissues.  
  • When PO2 increases beyond 1.4 atm, the increased O2 concentration in body tissues causes oxygen toxicity which results in muscle twitching, tunnel vision, and convulsions.  
  • This can cause drowning for divers who venture too deep without proper precautions. 
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Why do deep-sea divers breathe a mixture of helium and oxygen?

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What scientific concept do you need to know in order to solve this problem?

Our tutors have indicated that to solve this problem you will need to apply the Chemistry Gas Laws concept. If you need more Chemistry Gas Laws practice, you can also practice Chemistry Gas Laws practice problems.

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