Some liquid perfluoroalkanes have very high solubilities and carrying capacities for gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide.

In the 1980s and 1990s there were experiments showing that animals could "breathe" when submerged in these liquids (see this on Wikipedia). A real example of this even appeared in the SciFi movie The Abyss (1989) where, in one scene, rats were shown breathing while submersed in one (for real, apparently).

There were related attempts at the time to manufacture artificial blood substitutes using the compounds.

Whatever happened to these ideas? Presumably the efforts to find effective uses failed, but why?

  • $\begingroup$ A 2020 article: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7086064 $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 3, 2023 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ Nothing happened to ideas; it's just that there's not much point in using this. And I seriously doubt you'd like to drown and then vomit all this crap. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Dec 3, 2023 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ And a 2020 article on The Many Uses of Liquid Breathing: A modern day torture device or chemical savior? medium.com/stupid-learning/… It's always a good concept in SF, where people have been modified to remove drowning reflex. Perhaps the rapid progress in teleoperation and robotics has made this less urgent. $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2023 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithoron There were other major uses not just breathable liquids. The big ones were to overcome serious medical problems where there is some justification even if there are also side-effects. And why ideas fail is interesting. $\endgroup$
    – matt_black
    Dec 3, 2023 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ BTW, some fire-suppression systems use fluorine-carbon compounds. One was triggered at a data center where I worked, blowing staff through a plate-glass window. Though there were some injuries due to force, nobody suffocated. However, PFAS are now problematic: fireline.com/… $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2023 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


The Discoveries article by Fahad Khan et al. (Discoveries (Craiova). 2020 Jan-Mar; 8(1): e104. Published online 2020 Mar 18. doi: 10.15190/d.2020.1) discusses perfluorocarbon options (amongst others). From that article, Table 1 shows four different products.

  1. Flusol-DA-20 (Green Cross Corporation, Japan) - FDA approved in 1989, discontinued due to side effects and limited success (patients still needed supplemental O2 is noted in the text).

  2. Oxygen (Alliance Pharmaceutical, San Diego) - reached phase II trial, discontinued due to cost.

  3. Oxycyte (Synthetic Blood International, Costa Mesa) - reached phase IIB trials, discontinued due to lack of enrollment in trials.

  4. Perftoran (Russian Academy of Sciences) - rebranded as Vidaphor (FluorO2 Therapeutics, Boca Raton), "currently awaiting clinical trials" (which would seem unlikely in the US at least right now).

As noted in section "3.3 Limitations":

PFCs are ambitious products that in theory and chemically seem to be a viable option for clinical use. However, issues with manufacturing and development have led them to become mostly discontinued.


Due to initial clinical trials with these products showing lack of beneficial outcomes, no current trials are ongoing with PFCs.

So, the products have not lived up to their initial promise.


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