Biothermal Engineering

This subject presents an excellent example of where careful logic can create wonderful new insights. Massive education or knowledge is actually not critically important.

We know that an adult man generally needs enough food to provide around 2200 Calories of chemical energy, in order to operate all the components of the body and to supply the muscles to accomplish the common activities of a day, such as walking, carrying objects, etc. Researchers know that around 80% of that energy is consumed for what is called Basal Metabolism, which means the operation of the heart, lungs and other components of the body. The remaining 20% can be described as the Overall Net Efficiency of a human body, the energy which is used to do the Work of walking, carrying and the rest.

All the 2200 Calories of chemical energy that get used up during a day's living cannot just disappear. A basic Law of Science is that Energy is Conserved. So even though the Calories of food energy seem to disappear each day, they do not! First, the many millions of cells in the body each receive a tiny amount of that energy (by the flow of blood carrying it from the Intestines where it is extracted from the actual food materials). Our bodies know how to extract and use the carbon atoms and hydrogen atoms, and then use the available energy, in each cell's Mitochondria, where a complex process called the Kreb's Cycle (or Citric Acid Cycle) does all this for you.

This activity creates impressive numbers of tiny molecules which contain energy, which can be called ATP and ADP. Those molecules are then carried by the blood to any muscle cells which need energy, or for all the other activities of our bodies.

The Krebs Cycle chemical reactions therefore creates tiny packets of molecules which contain hydrogen atoms and carbon atoms, which actually ARE the chemical basis for all that energy.

When the hydrogen and/or carbon atoms go to a muscle cell to get used, they go through another chemical reaction called Oxidation. The hydrogen atoms combine with available oxygen atoms to create WATER and also all the energy that the cell needs. The carbon atoms also combine with oxygen atoms to form a chemical called carbon dioxide, while also giving off the needed energy.

The muscle cells therefore get the energy they need, but they also create water molecules and carbon dioxide molecules in the process. These 'waste products' get put back into the blood and carried to the lungs. Cells in the lung tissues convert these chemicals into gases, water vapor and carbon dioxide gas. In humans, those gases are warm, at around 98.6°F, because the blood and all other components in the torso of the body are at around that temperature.

We INHALE air which contains small amounts of natural water vapor and carbon dioxide, but since the lung tissues constantly dump more and more of these gases into the (very warm) lungs, and then we EXHALE these gases, we wind up exhaling three things: (1) water vapor; (2) carbon dioxide gas; and (3) heat.

Since we can count how many times we exhale each day (around 16,000 times) and we can measure how much heat and water and carbon dioxide is in each breath, we can calculate how much energy the body processes each day.

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This presentation was first placed on the Internet in October 2013.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago