<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Because diffusion is typically very slow, its most important effects occur over small distances. For example, the cornea of the eye gets most of its oxygen by diffusion through the thin tear layer covering it.

The rate and direction of diffusion

If you very carefully place a drop of food coloring in a still glass of water, it will slowly diffuse into the colorless surroundings until its concentration is the same everywhere. This type of diffusion is called free diffusion, because there are no barriers inhibiting it. Let us examine its direction and rate. Molecular motion is random in direction, and so simple chance dictates that more molecules will move out of a region of high concentration than into it. The net rate of diffusion is higher initially than after the process is partially completed. (See [link] .)

The figure shows the diffusion along a cylindrical tube of area of cross section A. The cylindrical tube is divided into three regions. The cross section is marked as A. The first region is marked as region one. The concentration there is marked C one. The molecules are shown as small sphere with an arrow pointing out from them. The concentration is high in this region. The second region is marked of width delta x. The concentration is lesser in this region as compared to region one. The third region is marked as region two, the concentration in this region lesser than the other two regions shown by lesser number of spherical molecules.
Diffusion proceeds from a region of higher concentration to a lower one. The net rate of movement is proportional to the difference in concentration.

The rate of diffusion is proportional to the concentration difference. Many more molecules will leave a region of high concentration than will enter it from a region of low concentration. In fact, if the concentrations were the same, there would be no net movement. The rate of diffusion is also proportional to the diffusion constant D size 12{D} {} , which is determined experimentally. The farther a molecule can diffuse in a given time, the more likely it is to leave the region of high concentration. Many of the factors that affect the rate are hidden in the diffusion constant D size 12{D} {} . For example, temperature and cohesive and adhesive forces all affect values of D size 12{D} {} .

Diffusion is the dominant mechanism by which the exchange of nutrients and waste products occur between the blood and tissue, and between air and blood in the lungs. In the evolutionary process, as organisms became larger, they needed quicker methods of transportation than net diffusion, because of the larger distances involved in the transport, leading to the development of circulatory systems. Less sophisticated, single-celled organisms still rely totally on diffusion for the removal of waste products and the uptake of nutrients.

Osmosis and dialysis—diffusion across membranes

Some of the most interesting examples of diffusion occur through barriers that affect the rates of diffusion. For example, when you soak a swollen ankle in Epsom salt, water diffuses through your skin. Many substances regularly move through cell membranes; oxygen moves in, carbon dioxide moves out, nutrients go in, and wastes go out, for example. Because membranes are thin structures (typically 6 . 5 × 10 9 size 12{6 "." 5 times "10" rSup { size 8{ - 9} } } {} to 10 × 10 9 size 12{"10" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - 9} } } {} m across) diffusion rates through them can be high. Diffusion through membranes is an important method of transport.

Membranes are generally selectively permeable, or semipermeable    . (See [link] .) One type of semipermeable membrane has small pores that allow only small molecules to pass through. In other types of membranes, the molecules may actually dissolve in the membrane or react with molecules in the membrane while moving across. Membrane function, in fact, is the subject of much current research, involving not only physiology but also chemistry and physics.

Questions & Answers

does the force in a system result in the energy transfer?
Lebatam Reply
full meaning of GPS system
Anaele Reply
how to prove that Newton's law of universal gravitation F = GmM ______ R²
Kaka Reply
sir dose it apply to the human system
Olubukola Reply
prove that the centrimental force Fc= M1V² _________ r
Kaka Reply
prove that centripetal force Fc = MV² ______ r
how lesers can transmit information
mitul Reply
griffts bridge derivative
Ganesh Reply
below me
please explain; when a glass rod is rubbed with silk, it becomes positive and the silk becomes negative- yet both attracts dust. does dust have third types of charge that is attracted to both positive and negative
Timothy Reply
what is a conductor
below me
why below you
no....I said below me ...... nothing below .....ok?
dust particles contains both positive and negative charge particles
corona charge can verify
when pressure increases the temperature remain what?
Ibrahim Reply
remains the temperature
what is frequency
Mbionyi Reply
define precision briefly
Sujitha Reply
CT scanners do not detect details smaller than about 0.5 mm. Is this limitation due to the wavelength of x rays? Explain.
hope this helps
what's critical angle
Mahmud Reply
The Critical Angle Derivation So the critical angle is defined as the angle of incidence that provides an angle of refraction of 90-degrees. Make particular note that the critical angle is an angle of incidence value. For the water-air boundary, the critical angle is 48.6-degrees.
dude.....next time Google it
okay whatever
pls who can give the definition of relative density?
the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a standard, usually water for a liquid or solid, and air for a gas.
What is momentum
aliyu Reply
mass ×velocity
it is the product of mass ×velocity of an object
how do I highlight a sentence]p? I select the sentence but get options like copy or web search but no highlight. tks. src
Sean Reply
then you can edit your work anyway you want
Practice Key Terms 9

Get the best College physics course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'College physics' conversation and receive update notifications?