Diffusion of gases across the shell of the hen's egg

O. Douglas Wangensteen, Donald Wilson, Hermann Rahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Chicken egg shells, with the inner shell membrane removed, have been studied to determine their diffusive permeability to oxygen. This was done by measuring the oxygen flux through a section of the shell across which there was initially a difference in oxygen partial pressure but not in total gas pressure. The measured oxygen permeabilities, corrected to 37 °C, averaged 3.2 × 10-6 cm3 STP · sec-1 · cm-2 · mm Hg-1, and did not appear to change with incubation age. From this value the permeabilities for carbon dioxide and water vapor were calculated to be 2.5 × 10-6 and 4.0 × 10-6 cm3 STP · sec-1 · cm-2 · mm Hg-1, respectively. Also from the oxygen permeability data we were able to estimate a total pore area of 2.3 mm2 and an average pore diameter of 17 micra. The latter figure agrees well with direct observations. Finally, calculations were made which show that the inner and outer shell membranes, if dry, are a negligible barrier to gas diffusion compared to the shell. This means that the egg shell, the porosity of which is set when the egg is laid, is of prime importance in determining oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide and water vapor loss by the developing embryo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-30
Number of pages15
JournalRespiration Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1970
Externally publishedYes


  • Egg shell
  • Egg shell permeability
  • Oxygen diffusion
  • Oxygen permeability


Dive into the research topics of 'Diffusion of gases across the shell of the hen's egg'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this