Respirometry I: Lung Volumes and Capacities

A CIBT Lab Exercise in Physiology

Tips for Using this Lab

If the availability of equipment is a deterrent to using this lab I have had good fun and success doing the lab with a whole classroom as a demonstration. You will need to have the ability to project the screen of a computer hooked to one of Vernier's spiromtery systems. Recruit a variety of students as subject, eg, male/female, athlete/bookworm, student with asthma etc. Talk to the class about what they might expect from the different subjects and then while the subject is going through the normal measurement of tidal volume, forced inspiration and expiration etc, talk to the class about what they are seeing. Students will be riveted and will learn more per unit of time spent than by doing the activity themselves in small groups. Post lab students can be assigned writing assignments to discuss what they have learned.



What Are Your Volumes and Capacities?

By use of a Collins respirometer, students measure their inspiratory reserve volume, expiratory reserve volume, tidal volume and determine vital capacity. Resting measurements compared with values obtained after exercise may reveal individual homeostatic mechanisms. This exercise may be extended by pooling and analyzing class data.


Appropriate Levels

Life Science, High School, Honors, or Advanced Placement Biology.


Time Required

Preparation time: 5-10 min. to set up each respirometer.
Class time: a minimum of 6 min. per student per respirometer. (This lab may run concurrently with the lung model lab.)



  • Collins Respirometer

note: The Collins respirometer, for which this lab was written, has no peer as a fun and dynamic tool for teaching respirometry. Regrettably, they are uncommon and good ones are very expensive. A more contemporary and less costly alternative is to use a computerized flow measuring system. Vernier Corporation has Spirometry Probes that work with their data logging systems that can be used to do this lab.

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Price: No Charge

Jeannine Groff, Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School, Cherry Valley NY

Dave Frank, Department of Physiology, Cornell University, Ithaca NY

Victoria Boulay, Averill Park High School, Averill Park NY

Melissa Joslin, Averill Park High School, Averill Park NY