What happens if you put a few drops of food coloring in water?
Over time, the molecules of color spread out through the rest of the water. When the molecules are evenly spread throughout the space, the water will become an even color. This process of molecules moving from an area where there are lots of molecules to an area where there are fewer molecules is known as diffusion.
Small molecules can pass through the plasma membrane through a process called diffusion. Diffusion is the movement of molecules from an area where there is a higher concentration (larger amount) of the substance to an area where there is a lower concentration (lower amount) of the substance (Figure below). The amount of a substance in relation to the total volume is the concentration. During diffusion, molecules are said to flow down their concentration gradient, flowing from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. This is a natural process and does not require energy. Diffusion can occur across a semipermeable membrane, such as the cell membrane, as long as a concentration gradient exists. Molecules will continue to flow in this manner until equilibrium is reached. At equilibrium, there is no longer an area of high concentration or low concentration.
The diffusion of water across a membrane because of a difference in concentration is called osmosis. Let's explore three different situations and analyze the flow of water.
Applications of Osmosis
How do marine animals keep their cells from shrinking? How do you keep your blood cells from bursting? Both of these questions have to do with the cell membrane and osmosis. Marine animals live in salt water, which is a hypertonic environment; there is more salt in the water than in their cells. To prevent losing too much water from their bodies, these animals intake large quantities of salt water and then secrete the excess salt. Red blood cells can be kept from bursting or shriveling if put in a solution that is isotonic to the blood cells. If the blood cells were put in pure water, the solution would be hypotonic to the blood cells, so water would enter the blood cells, and they would swell and burst.
Visit the diffusion web site and watch the video, after the video please take the quiz.
This web site demonstrates how water moves in and out of a plant cell.
Great visual with music