During inspiration, alveolar pressure is lower than atmospheric pressure. This difference in pressure creates a pressure gradient that allows air to flow into the lungs.

Alveolar pressure

alveolar pressure (Paim) is the pressure of air inside of lung alveoli. When the glottis is open and no air is flowing in or out of the lungs, alveolar pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure, i.e. zero cmHtwoTHE.

Meaning

During inhalationthe increase in the volume of alveoli as a result of lung expansion decreases intra-alveolar pressure below atmospheric pressure by about -1 cmHtwoO. This slight negative pressure is enough to move 500 ml of air into the lungs in the 2 seconds required for inspiration. At the end of inspiration, alveolar pressure returns to atmospheric pressure (zero cmHtwoTHE).

During exhalation, the opposite change occurs. The lung alveoli collapse before air is expelled from them. Alveolar pressure rises to about +1 cmHtwoO. This forces the 500 ml of inspired air out of the lung during the 2 to 3 seconds of expiration. At the end of expiration, the pressure gradually drops and returns to atmospheric pressure.

References


Source: Alveolar pressure
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