If you’ve been wondering about the difference between osmosis and diffusion for some time then you’re in luck because today we’re going to lift the lid on these two often confused words in an accessible manner that you’ll be able to easily understand.
In their base form, both words are actually direct opposites of one another. You’ll soon understand precisely how and why when we delve into the exact definitions of each word in conjunction with providing you with a quick reference table that you can come back to any time you find yourself lost on this subject in the future. If you’re ready to lay any confusion over this subject then simply read on.
Definition Of Osmosis
Osmosis is: ‘The collection of loose / gathered particles in liquid or oxygen via passage through a permeable membrane in order to concentrate them.’ To give a visual reference for the above description, imagine the process of osmosis simply being the collecting and combining of loose and distant particles into one smaller and more concentrated form.
There are several real world examples we can draw on to help us understand not only osmosis, but also the difference between diffusion and osmosis in general. One such example would be a particle filter as used as part of many appliances and utility products. A filter serves to draw in loose, harmful elements in the air around us and concentrate them into some form of material (this material can vary depending on the intended purpose of the filter itself) so that they can be concentrated together and their negative impact nullified.
It’s this concentrating / focusing of loose particles into one smaller and more compact area that forms the basis of osmosis no matter what form it comes in and ultimately helps us to separate the process from diffusion. Other examples of osmosis include absorption (like a plant cell absorbing water) and red blood cells increasing in volume when taking on water particles.
It’s likely that in the physical world around us we’re going to see more examples of diffusion compared to osmosis because the process is typically associated with more of the natural and unnatural actions / situations we either create or partake in.
Definition Of Diffusion
Diffusion is: ‘The expulsion of gathered particles contained in a concentrated area into a wider and more expansive area.’
Already it’s very clear to see when reading the above description that the fundamental difference between these two words largely lies in the fact that one involves the gathering of particles and the other involves the distribution of collected particles. When you think about it, diffusion is quite literally occurring around us frequently. We use this process to our advantage every time we use an aerosol or any other form of spray product, we create it when we use our cars due to exhaust fumes and we even see it in the ozone layer when fossil fuels are broken down and vaporized.
When it comes to diffusion vs osmosis it’s easy to visualize the differences when you imagine that one (osmosis) involves ‘shrinking’ particles down whereas the other (diffusion) involves expanding and spreading particles. Ultimately they’re similar albeit for the fact that they lead to particles following the exact opposite trajectory to one another.
Though it can initially be difficult to understand these two processes, today’s post should have helped to shed some conclusive light on them both. It’s easy to separate the two when we remember that osmosis introduces particles into a smaller space and osmosis introduces them into a larger space.