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Diffusion vs Osmosis

Osmosis is the result of diffusion across a semi-permeable membrane. If two solutions of different
concentration are separated by a semi-permeable membrane, then the solvent will tend to diffuse
across the membrane from the less concentrated to the more concentrated solution. This process is
called osmosis.
Semi-permeable membranes are very thin layers of material and these allow small molecules like
Oxygen, water, Carbon Dioxide, Ammonia, Glucose, amino-acids etc. to pass through. But they do not
allow larger molecules like sucrose, protein etc. to pass through.

Comparison chart

Diffusion

Osmosis

Water:

Doesnt need water for movement.

Needs water for movement

What is it?:

Diffusion is a spontaneous movement of


particles from an area of high
concentration to an area of low
concentration through a semipermeable membrane. (ex. tea flavoring
moving from an area of high to low
concentration in hot water.)

Osmosis is the spontaneous net


movement of water across a
semipermeable membrane from a
region of low solute concentration to a
solution with a high solute
concentration, down a solute
concentration gradient.

Process:

Diffusion mainly occurs in gaseous state


or within gas molecules and liquid
molecules. The molecules of gases are in
constant motion and collide with the
membrane. If the membrane is removed
the gases will mix because of random
velocities.

It occurs when the medium surrounding


the cell has a higher water
concentration than the cell. The cell
gains water and at the same time, many
important molecules, and particles for
growth, also move from one cell to
another.

Importance:

To create energy and other important


nutrients.

In animals, osmosis influences the


distribution of nutrients and the release
of metabolic waste products. In plants,
osmosis is partially responsible for the
absorption of soil water and for the
elevation of the liquid to the leaves of
the plant.

Process of Osmosis vs Process of Diffusion

Diffusion is the spontaneous net movement of particles or molecules from an area of their high
concentration to an area of their low concentration through a semi-permeable membrane. For example,
diffusing molecules will move randomly between areas of high and low concentration but because there
are more molecules in the high concentration region, more molecules will leave the high concentration
region than the low concentration one. Therefore, there will be a net movement of molecules from high
to low concentration. Initially, a concentration gradient leaves a smooth decrease in concentration from
high to low which will form between the two regions. As time progresses, the gradient will grow
increasingly shallow until the concentrations are equalized.
Diffusion is a spontaneous process. It is simply the statistical outcome of random motion. Diffusion
increases entropy, decreasing Gibbs free energy, and therefore isthermodynamically favorable. Diffusion
operates within the boundaries of the Second Law of Thermodynamics because it demonstrates nature's
tendency to wind down, as evidenced by increasing entropy.
Osmosis is the result of diffusion of water across a semi-permeable membrane. For example, if the
medium surrounding the cell has a higher water concentration than the cell, then the cell will gain water
by osmosis. Water molecules are free to pass across the cell membrane in both directions. The overall
result is that water enters the cell and the cell is likely to swell up. If the water concentration in the
medium is exactly the same, then there will be no net movement of water across the cell membrane
because, water crosses the cell membrane in both directions, but the amount coming in is the same as
the amount going out, so there wont be any overall movement of water. The cell will stay the same
size.
If the medium has a lower concentration of water than the cell it will lose water by osmosis. Again,
water crosses the cell membrane in both directions, but this time more water leaves the cell than enters
it. Therefore the cell will shrink. The movement of solvent is from the less-concentrated (hypotonic) to
the more-concentrated (hypertonic) solution, which tends to reduce the difference in concentration.

Differences in Function
While osmosis influences the distribution of nutrients and the release of metabolic waste products in
animals; in plants, osmosis is partially responsible for the absorption of soil water and for the elevation
of the liquid to the leaves of the plant.
Diffusion can occur through a cell membrane, and the membrane allows small molecules like water
(H2O), oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and others to pass through easily. Hence while osmosis helps
the plants in absorbing water and other liquids, diffusion helps other molecules to pass through and
hence both facilitate the photosynthesis process. Both processes help plants to create energy and other
important nutrients.

Different types of osmosis and diffusion


The two types of Osmosis are:

Reverse Osmosis: it is the process of forcing a solvent from a region of high solute concentration
through a membrane to a region of low solute concentration by applying a pressure in excess of the
osmotic pressure.
Forward Osmosis: Forward Osmosis is an osmotic process that, like reverse osmosis, uses a semipermeable membrane to effect separation of water from dissolved solutes.

The types of diffusion are:

Brownian motion, for example of a single particle in a solvent


Collective diffusion, the diffusion of a large number of (possibly interacting) particles
Effusion of a gas through small holes.
Electron diffusion, resulting in electric current
Facilitated diffusion, present in some organisms
Gaseous diffusion, used for isotope separation
Heat flow
Knudsen diffusion
Momentum diffusion, ex. the diffusion of the hydrodynamic velocity field
Osmosis is the diffusion of water through a cell membrane
Photon Diffusion
Reverse Diffusion
Self-diffusion
Surface diffusion