Designing an effective intravenous membrane oxygenator requires selecting hollow fiber membranes (HFMs) that present minimal resistance to gas exchange over extended periods of time. Microporous fiber membranes, as used in extracorporeal oxygenators, offer a minimal exchange resistance, but one that diminishes with time because of fiber wetting and subsequent serum leakage. Potentially attractive alternatives are composite HFMs, which inhibit fiber wetting and serum leakage by incorporating a true membrane layer within their porous walls. To evaluate composite and other HFMs, the authors developed a simple apparatus and method for measuring HFM permeability in a gas-liquid system under conditions relevant to intravenous oxygenation. The system requires only a small volume of liquid that is mixed with a pitched blade impeller driven by a direct current motor at controlled rates. Mass flux is measured from the gas flow exiting the fibers, eliminating the necessity of measuring any liquid side conditions. The authors measured the CO2 exchange permeabilities of Mitsubishi MHF 200L composite HFMs, KPF 280E microporous HFMs, and KPF 190 microporous HFMs. The membrane permeabilities to CO2 were 9.3 X 10-5 ml/cm2/sec/cmHg for the MHF 200L fiber, 4.7 X 10-4 ml/cm2/sec/cmHg for the KPF 280E fiber, and 2.8 X 10-4 ml/cm2/sec/cmHg for the KPF 190 fiber. From these results it is concluded that 1) because of liquid-fiber surface interactions, the permeabilities of the microporous fibers are several orders of magnitude less than would be measured for completely gas filled pores, emphasizing the importance of measuring microporous fiber permeability in a gas-liquid system; and 2) the liquid diffusional boundary layer adjacent to the fibers generated by the pitched blade impeller is unique to each fiber, resulting in different boundary layer characterizations.
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