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Can plants keep you alive in an airtight room?

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sci-nerd

Aah, not enough plants. Better luck next attempt!

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Iilaa'mpuul'xem

I remember years ago when I was a kid, I asked a nurse at the hospital where I was in, why she removed all the flowers from the ward each night and brought them back each morning? She told me that the flowers took up the oxygen from the ward and some patients have breathing difficulties and it could be life threatening to them..... I don't think I slept at all the whole stay. 

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Carlos Allende

If I locked myself in an airtight room ...could I keep myself alive by quickly writing a ground-breaking political manifesto, even if I was then only 'alive' in the sense that Che Guevara is still alive? 

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sci-nerd
19 minutes ago, Iilaa'mpuul'xem said:

I remember years ago when I was a kid, I asked a nurse at the hospital where I was in, why she removed all the flowers from the ward each night and brought them back each morning? She told me that the flowers took up the oxygen from the ward and some patients have breathing difficulties and it could be life threatening to them..... I don't think I slept at all the whole stay. 

Sounds like she had it a little backwards.

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Setton
48 minutes ago, Iilaa'mpuul'xem said:

I remember years ago when I was a kid, I asked a nurse at the hospital where I was in, why she removed all the flowers from the ward each night and brought them back each morning? She told me that the flowers took up the oxygen from the ward and some patients have breathing difficulties and it could be life threatening to them..... I don't think I slept at all the whole stay. 

 

29 minutes ago, sci-nerd said:

Sounds like she had it a little backwards.

No, she's right actually. As far as plants using oxygen (doubt it's enough to kill someone unless they're in an airtight box). 

Plants photosynthesise during the day (using CO2, water and sunlight and producing oxygen and sugars). At night, without sunlight, they use those sugars and oxygen to grow, using respiration (like animals) instead of photosynthesis. 

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sci-nerd
6 minutes ago, Setton said:

No, she's right actually. As far as plants using oxygen (doubt it's enough to kill someone unless they're in an airtight box). 

Plants photosynthesise during the day (using CO2, water and sunlight and producing oxygen and sugars). At night, without sunlight, they use those sugars and oxygen to grow, using respiration (like animals) instead of photosynthesis. 

I'm not much of a botanist so that is new to me. Thanks for the info!

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aztek

i have a theory that the same room with no plants would have same  co2 level or very close to what she had with 200 plants.  also plants need sun, real sun, not full spectrum, or grow bulbs. 

Edited by aztek
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Iilaa'mpuul'xem
11 minutes ago, Setton said:

 

No, she's right actually. As far as plants using oxygen (doubt it's enough to kill someone unless they're in an airtight box). 

Plants photosynthesise during the day (using CO2, water and sunlight and producing oxygen and sugars). At night, without sunlight, they use those sugars and oxygen to grow, using respiration (like animals) instead of photosynthesis. 

She just explained it to me as a child... that plants need to breath like humans and that means they use the oxygen people need. It obviously made sense to me back then, knowing that plants and flowers on the hospital wards were living things just like people. It made me think for a long time how much oxygen a plant needs in comparison to people? 

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Doug1o29
1 hour ago, sci-nerd said:

Aah, not enough plants. Better luck next attempt!

So which plants are the most-efficient at photosynthesis?  I'd be sure to try C4 grasses, but all those in the picture are C3 plants.

How many square feet of leaf of each species would be needed?  Sounds more like a publicity stunt than a well-thought-out experiment.

But it would be an interesting exercise if you did your homework before locking yourself up.

Doug

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sci-nerd
4 minutes ago, Doug1o29 said:

So which plants are the most-efficient at photosynthesis?  I'd be sure to try C4 grasses, but all those in the picture are C3 plants.

How many square feet of leaf of each species would be needed?  Sounds more like a publicity stunt than a well-thought-out experiment.

But it would be an interesting exercise if you did your homework before locking yourself up.

Doug

Ya, like some teens going into a room filled with helium, so they can talk funny. It might have been a funny idea, but not very clever.

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DarkHunter

Considering about 70% to 80% of atmospheric oxygen comes from algae it's not that surprising a room full of plants wasnt enough.

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Setton
1 hour ago, sci-nerd said:

I'm not much of a botanist so that is new to me. Thanks for the info!

Amazing what random facts I remember from Y7 biology. 

Can't remember what I went in the kitchen for but I remember that plants respire at night! :lol:

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Dark_Grey

I hear you. That kind of memory is great for crossword puzzles but dont ask me to recite my postal code :rolleyes:

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avtomat47

Professor/geologist Iain Stewart already did pretty much the same thing.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2038180/TV-scientist-suffers-blinding-headaches-experiment-living-airtight-box-surviving-solely-oxygen-emitted-plants-comes-end.html

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DirtyDocMartens
4 hours ago, Doug1o29 said:

How many square feet of leaf of each species would be needed?  Sounds more like a publicity stunt than a well-thought-out experiment.

Yeah, it seems a competent scientist could figure it out with a calculator. Kinda fun, though. Also, I wonder how it would have ended if he had been in a room full of marihuana plants.

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TonopahRick

Well, he might have died but he would have gone out with a smile. :D

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third_eye

My money's on the plants ... If he stays in there till he is plant food, the plants will do much better

~

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NicoletteS
On 11/1/2018 at 2:10 PM, Doug1o29 said:

So which plants are the most-efficient at photosynthesis?  I'd be sure to try C4 grasses, but all those in the picture are C3 plants.

How many square feet of leaf of each species would be needed?  Sounds more like a publicity stunt than a well-thought-out experiment.

But it would be an interesting exercise if you did your homework before locking yourself up.

Doug

I was thinking the same thing... seems pretty obvious to do the preliminary measurement of how much carbon dioxide the plants can convert and stock the room accordingly instead of just setting some random plants in there and seeing how long until you suffocate.

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lost_shaman
On 11/1/2018 at 4:10 PM, Doug1o29 said:

But it would be an interesting exercise if you did your homework before locking yourself up.

For sure. It wouldn't be all that complicated. I say that but there would be many factors. For one thing a 10X10X10 room would hold 1,000 cubic feet of air. A Human at rest breathes 388 cubic feet per day. That thousand cubic feet would have about 0.05% CO2 concentration to begin with. Then human breath has a 5% CO2 concentration. So in one day you would increase the CO2 concentration in a 1,000 cubic foot room to a little over 2% concentration, which would be lethal.

Next a human breath exhaled has about 19% Oxygen so you are breathing out 1.95% less oxygen than you are breathing in a day you are consuming so 388 x 0,0195% is 7.566 cubic feet of Oxygen, or 0.61 pounds of Oxygen. Therefore the plants must replace that amount of Oxygen per day.

Plants take one molecule of CO2 and water along with sunlight to produce sugars and retain the Carbon atom and release an O2 molecule. So a plant must gain the weight of the Carbon atom and the water (H2O) molecule to release one O2 molecule. So a plant or plants must grow by 8 pounds per day simply to replace the O2 in a 1,000 cubic foot room that a Human is consuming. 

Here things would get complicated because just replacing the Oxygen a human consumes does not mean that the Plants are "scrubbing" enough CO2 out of the room that the human is exhaling, which a human does constantly 24 hours a day, and as I stated above just 2% of CO2 concentration is lethal to humans. As Setton points out Plants also respire CO2 at night, the amount of Oxygen the use is negligible, so the problem is that the plants are not "scrubbing" CO2 out of the air in the room at night but the human continues to exhale CO2 at a 5% concentration the entire time all 24 hours. At 388 cubic feet of human breath that is 19.4 cubic feet of pure CO2 that a human adds to the 1,000 cubic feet in the room. So the plants can't simply replace the Oxygen a human breaths. They must also grow enough during the day to offset the CO2 concentration in the air and keep that well below the 2% CO2 concentration that is lethal. 

I'm too tired to try and figure that calculation, but it would mean that the plants would have to grow more that the 8 pounds per day that would simply replace the Oxygen a Human is consuming. 

At any rate, it is clear that a 1,000 cubic foot space is simply too small to grow enough plants to sustain a Human with Oxygen and also "scrub" enough CO2 to allow a Human to survive. This experiment, just running a few simple calculations, was doomed to fail from the beginning if the "goal" was to survive for three days. With no plants in the room at all a human would suffer CO2 poisoning and Oxygen deprivation in about 12 hours, so this person pushed through for 15 hours with plants and that is probably something you could do with no plants at all if you just pushed yourself and suffered. 

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Doug1o29
4 hours ago, lost_shaman said:

For sure. It wouldn't be all that complicated. I say that but there would be many factors. For one thing a 10X10X10 room would hold 1,000 cubic feet of air. A Human at rest breathes 388 cubic feet per day. That thousand cubic feet would have about 0.05% CO2 concentration to begin with. Then human breath has a 5% CO2 concentration. So in one day you would increase the CO2 concentration in a 1,000 cubic foot room to a little over 2% concentration, which would be lethal.

Next a human breath exhaled has about 19% Oxygen so you are breathing out 1.95% less oxygen than you are breathing in a day you are consuming so 388 x 0,0195% is 7.566 cubic feet of Oxygen, or 0.61 pounds of Oxygen. Therefore the plants must replace that amount of Oxygen per day.

Plants take one molecule of CO2 and water along with sunlight to produce sugars and retain the Carbon atom and release an O2 molecule. So a plant must gain the weight of the Carbon atom and the water (H2O) molecule to release one O2 molecule. So a plant or plants must grow by 8 pounds per day simply to replace the O2 in a 1,000 cubic foot room that a Human is consuming. 

Here things would get complicated because just replacing the Oxygen a human consumes does not mean that the Plants are "scrubbing" enough CO2 out of the room that the human is exhaling, which a human does constantly 24 hours a day, and as I stated above just 2% of CO2 concentration is lethal to humans. As Setton points out Plants also respire CO2 at night, the amount of Oxygen the use is negligible, so the problem is that the plants are not "scrubbing" CO2 out of the air in the room at night but the human continues to exhale CO2 at a 5% concentration the entire time all 24 hours. At 388 cubic feet of human breath that is 19.4 cubic feet of pure CO2 that a human adds to the 1,000 cubic feet in the room. So the plants can't simply replace the Oxygen a human breaths. They must also grow enough during the day to offset the CO2 concentration in the air and keep that well below the 2% CO2 concentration that is lethal. 

I'm too tired to try and figure that calculation, but it would mean that the plants would have to grow more that the 8 pounds per day that would simply replace the Oxygen a Human is consuming. 

At any rate, it is clear that a 1,000 cubic foot space is simply too small to grow enough plants to sustain a Human with Oxygen and also "scrub" enough CO2 to allow a Human to survive. This experiment, just running a few simple calculations, was doomed to fail from the beginning if the "goal" was to survive for three days. With no plants in the room at all a human would suffer CO2 poisoning and Oxygen deprivation in about 12 hours, so this person pushed through for 15 hours with plants and that is probably something you could do with no plants at all if you just pushed yourself and suffered. 

You're getting as windy as I am.  Must be these southern plains.

Doug

 

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lost_shaman
1 minute ago, Doug1o29 said:

You're getting as windy as I am.  Must be these southern plains.

Doug

 

Haha! I tried to keep it simple! I had tons more info I could have added, but to much information just turns people off so I try and keep it simple.

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