Researchers say their device, which oxygenates blood outside the body before it goes through the lungs, could be an alternative to transplants.
The Swansea University scientists say it could take many years before the device, the size of a spectacles case, is available.
Lung patients, who have seen how it would work, have welcomed the research.
According to the British Lung Foundation, there are more than 40 conditions which affect the lungs and airways and impact on a person’s ability to breathe.
They include lung cancer, tuberculosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, sleep apnoea, avian flu, bronchiolitis and many others.
Its research suggests that one person in every seven in the UK is affected by lung disease – this equates to approximately 8m people.
As of 6 March 2009, 217 people were on the waiting list for a lung transplant according to figures by NHS Blood and Transplant.
Now scientists in Swansea are developing a portable artificial lung which could transform the lives of patients.