Created By: zarpaulus on June 29, 2014 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on July 27, 2014

Breathable Liquid

A liquid people with lungs can breathe like it was air.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
On occasion, a work has a reason for characters to breathe a liquid rather than the normal air. This has been accomplished with fluorocarbon liquid for medical purposes, and has been proposed with other theoretical substances to help with crushing pressures or high-g forces.

Super Not-Drowning Skills is when a character is able to breathe ordinary water for no explicable reason. May be a component in an Artificial Gill.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion the cockpits of the titular Mecha are filled with a fictional oxygenated liquid called LCL which is required for the pilot to mentally sync with an Evangelion, as well as providing direct oxygenation of their blood, and dampening the impacts from battle. Once the cockpit is flooded the LCL is ionized, bringing its density, opacity, and viscosity close to that of air.

Film
  • The Abyss features a character using liquid breathing to dive thousands of feet without compressing. The Abyss also features a scene with a rat submerged in and breathing fluorocarbon liquid, filmed in real life, not special effects.
  • Mission to Mars: The ship that Jim gets into to fly to where the Martians ended up has some sort of breathable liquid in it.

Literature
  • In David Brin's Uplift series the Streaker, a starship crewed primarily by uplifted dolphins, is largely flooded with "oxywater" that the neo-fin crew can breathe without periodically leaving their stations to come up for air. They strongly prefer air though.
  • The Forever War describes liquid immersion and breathing in great detail as a key technology to allow space travel and combat with acceleration up to 50 G.
  • In The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, Robert Langdon (the protagonist) is completely submerged in breathable liquid mixed with hallucinogenic chemicals and sedatives as a torture and interrogation technique by Mal'akh (the antagonist). He goes through a near death experience when he inhales the liquid and blacks out, losing control over his body, but is soon revived.
  • Hal Clement's 1973 novel Ocean on Top portrays a small underwater civilization living in a 'bubble' of oxygenated fluid denser than seawater.
  • Ben Bova's novel Jupiter features a craft in which the crew are suspended in a breathable liquid that allows them to survive in the high pressure environment of Jupiter's atmosphere.
  • In Th Hall Of The Mountain King, one of the stories in the Man-Kzin Wars series features a Tnuctipun pilot encased in a capsule of breathable fluid to protect him (and his normally air-filled lungs) from high-G maneuvers.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of Eureka, Sheriff Jack Carter is submerged in a tank of "oxygen rich plasma" to be cured of the effects of a scientific accident.
  • In season 1, episode 13 of Seven Days chrononaut Frank Parker is seen breathing a hyper-oxygenated perfluorocarbon liquid that is pumped through a sealed full body suit that he is wearing. This suit and liquid combination allow him to board a Russian submarine through open ocean at a depth of almost 1000 feet. Upon boarding the submarine he removes his helmet, expels the liquid from his lungs and is able to breathe air again.
  • UFO
    • The aliens have (stolen) human bodies and stay inside space suits filled with an oxygenated liquid that allows them to breathe.
    • Played With in the episode "Ordeal". Aliens kidnap Paul Foster and force him to breathe the liquid so he can survive being transported to the alien home world, but it turns out to be Only A Dream.
  • Seven Days: The three aliens that crashed at Roswell in 1947 are kept in alien jars at Neverland. One is still alive, and it can apparently breathe the liquid since it's not hooked up to any tubes.

Tabletop Games
  • Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. In the seas around the Sunken City can be found crystal orbs that, when broken, oxygenate the surrounding water enough for land creatures to breathe it.

Video Games
  • In Sword of the Stars the Liir use a hyper-oxygenated liquid on their ships. The ceremony for joining the Black Swimmers includes a ritual "drowning" in the substance.
  • X-COM: Terror from the Deep. "Aquanauts" fighting deep ocean conditions breathe a dense oxygen-carrying fluid.
  • In the EVE Online Universe, pilots in capsules (escape pods that function as the control center for the spacecraft) breathe an oxygen rich, nano-saturated, breathable glucose-based suspension solution

Western Animation
  • In an episode of Metalocalypse, the other members of the band submerge guitarist Toki in a "liquid oxygen isolation chamber" while recording an album in the Mariana Trench.

Real Life
  • There have been some experiments in liquid breathing using perfluorocarbon, which has a higher oxygen capacity than blood. It requires mechanical assistance to circulate the fluid, and often surgery to ventilate it, but liquid breathing has been used occasionally to help premature infants and adults with ARDS breathe since the 1990s.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • June 29, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Is this essentially Batman Can Breathe In Space but with fluids? Is it different enough?
  • June 29, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ No, this is about actual breathable liquids, rather than hand-waves.

    • In The Lost Symbol, the Big Bad tortures Langdon by making him seemingly drown in a tank of breathable oxygenated liquid.
  • June 30, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    I think it's actually a break from reality with grim subtext to boot, not just a happy "it has been accomplished with fluorocarbon liquids". I don't recall the thing in great detail, but according to the journal article I read, the experimental mice are drowning first (air in lungs is displaced by liquid) and then are living off oxygen that was in the liquid. They're soon dead either way. Oxygen is not infinite and regardless of whether you fish them out and clear their lungs, the muscles that are supposed to pump air — are now injured by the strain to pump some three orders of magnitude more dense matter. Respiratory function doesn't get restored properly. The mice died of pneumonia that followed, in best cases.
  • June 30, 2014
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • UFO
      • The aliens have (stolen) human bodies and stay inside space suits filled with an oxygenated liquid that allows them to breathe.
      • Played With in the episode "Ordeal". Aliens kidnap Paul Foster and force him to breathe the liquid so he can survive being transported to the alien home world, but it turns out to be Only A Dream.
  • June 30, 2014
    DAN004
    Real Life
    • Fishes. As well as many other aquatic lives, except for water mammals.
  • June 30, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Added the word "Examples".
      • Blue Linked media section title(s).
    • Namespaced and italicized work name(s).
  • June 30, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^^ No lungs.
  • June 30, 2014
    zarpaulus
    @ Nemuru Mae Ni: Actually, human premature babies and adults with acute respiratory distress syndrome have been treated with fluorochemical perfluorooctyl bromide http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_breathing#Medical_treatment
  • June 30, 2014
    Astaroth
  • June 30, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ It can be used as an Artificial Gill, as in The Abyss, the others have no relationship.

    This is about liquids designed so that humans and other air-breathing species can extract oxygen from it, not aquatic species breathing ordinary water, that would be a case of People Sit On Chairs.
  • June 30, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Well then water mammals should count here? They frequently inhale water and then goes near the surface to exhale them.
  • June 30, 2014
    ayjazz
    • Mission To Mars: The ship that Jim gets into to fly to where the Martians ended up has some sort of breathable liquid in it.
  • June 30, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^^ I can't tell if you're dense or just trolling.
  • June 30, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ My point is: The title isn't clear. Fishes do breath liquid, yet you say that doesn't count. Is "having lungs" a requirement?

  • June 30, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    @zarpaulus. In ventilation, an external pump creates the flow. It's not quite the same as what usually is referred to as breathing. And critical patients are convenient in terms of own respiratory function lacking. And the rehabilitation for patients to readjust to air is likely still a huge work.
  • July 1, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^^ THEN SAY THAT INSTEAD OF THROWING IN EXAMPLES THAT DIRECTLY CONTRADICT THE DESCRIPTION AND LACONIC

    Liquid Breathing is the official term.
  • July 1, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ aww, you're no fun. :P

    I guess it is hard for the title to address the "lungs" part of the trope...
  • July 8, 2014
    TomWalpertac2
    • In Th Hall Of The Mountain King, one of the stories in the Man-Kzin Wars series features a Tnuctipun pilot encased in a capsule of breathable fluid to protect him (and his normally air-filled lungs) from high-G maneuvers.

    Mobile Fishbowl would be only distantly related.
  • July 8, 2014
    DAN004
  • July 8, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Ditch the "mammalian" part. Breathing Liquid With Lungs
  • July 8, 2014
    Snicka
    I think the description should explain how this trope is related to Batman Can Breathe In Space and Artificial Gill (and possibly Mobile Fishbowl too). Also, don't forget to explain how much of this is Truth In Television and how much is just plain sci-fi.

    I think Liquid Breathing is an okay title.
  • July 8, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ So far as I can tell it has no relationship to Batman Can Breathe In Space.

    I'll add a Real Life section with a link to the Wikipedia page.
  • July 8, 2014
    JonnyB
    In Galaxy Quest, members of the Galaxy Quest team are enveloped in some sort of blue liquid gel before being teleported to the ship. It appears they can breathe normally inside it.
  • July 8, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Seven Days: The three aliens that crashed at Roswell in 1947 are kept in alien jars at Neverland. One is still alive, and it can apparently breathe the liquid since it's not hooked up to any tubes.
  • July 23, 2014
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. In the seas around the Sunken City can be found crystal orbs that, when broken, oxygenate the surrounding water enough for land creatures to breathe it.
  • July 27, 2014
    jormis29
    • Shadowrun: The "Cyberpirates!" Sourcebook introduced the Liquid Breathing Apparatus that has allowed divers to achieve depths down as far as 3,000 meters, as the liquid system completely negates the risks of decompression.

    By the way there are two seperate entries for Seven Days, maybe you should put them together with proper indentation.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=wrft5cnvk1jm9d2m64nhdsqt