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Diffusion, Osmosis and Active Transport

Explore how water and ions can diffuse both passively and actively through cell membranes.

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This activity requires the Java Runtime Environment version 5 (sometimes referred to as 1.5) or later with Java Webstart. You can download it at java.com.

Movement of ions in and out of cells is crucial to maintaining homeostasis within the body and ensuring that biological functions run properly. The natural movement of molecules due to collisions is called diffusion. Several factors affect diffusion rate: concentration, surface area, and molecular pumps. This activity demonstrates diffusion, osmosis, and active transport through 12 interactive models. Start by following the path of a molecule of dye in water, create concentration gradients on either side of a cell membrane and watch the movement of substances in and out of a cell, and monitor the movement of oxygen into red blood cells with and without hemoglobin.

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Download Size: 70 KB

WARNING: Your data will not be saved. To save data, run this activity as a registered user. You can register at the project portal. Please view the requirements below before launching this activity.

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 4E/H4*. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that chemical energy is associated with the configuration of atoms in molecules that make up a substance. Some changes of configuration require a net input of energy whereas others cause a net release.

5. The Living Environment

5C. Cells
  • 5C/H1a. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that every cell is covered by a membrane that controls what can enter and leave the cell.
  • 5C/H2a. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that within the cells are specialized parts for the transport of materials, energy capture and release, protein building, waste disposal, passing information, and even movement.
  • 5C/H3. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that the work of the cell is carried out by the many different types of molecules it assembles, mostly proteins. Protein molecules are long, usually folded chains made from 20 different kinds of amino acid molecules. The function of each protein molecule depends on its specific sequence of amino acids and its shape. The shape of the chain is a consequence of attractions between its parts.
  • 5C/H5. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that complex interactions among the different kinds of molecules in the cell cause distinct cycles of activities, such as growth and division. Cell behavior can also be affected by molecules from other parts of the organism or even other organisms.
  • 5C/H9** (SFAA). By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that some protein molecules assist in replicating genetic information, repairing cell structures, helping other molecules get in or out of the cell, and generally catalyzing and regulating molecular interactions.

6. The Human Organism

6C. Basic Functions
  • 6C/H3*. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that communication between cells is required to coordinate their diverse activities. Cells may secrete molecules that spread locally to nearby cells or that are carried in the bloodstream to cells throughout the body. Nerve cells transmit electrochemical signals that carry information much more rapidly than is possible by diffusion or blood flow.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 11B/H1a*. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that a mathematical model uses rules and relationships to describe and predict objects and events in the real world.
11C. Constancy and Change
  • 11C/H1*. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that if a system in equilibrium is disturbed, it may return to a very similar state of equilibrium, or it may undergo a radical change until the system achieves a new state of equilibrium with very different conditions, or it may fail to achieve any type of equilibrium.
  • 11C/H12** (SFAA). By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that even though a system may appear to be unchanging when viewed macroscopically, there is continual activity of the molecules in the system.

Copyright
© Copyright The Concord Consortium

Record Link
<a href="stem-resources/diffusion-osmosis-and-active-transport">The Concord Consortium. Diffusion, Osmosis and Active Transport. Concord: The Concord Consortium, 2010, September 10.</a>

AIP
Diffusion, Osmosis and Active Transport (The Concord Consortium, Concord, 2010, September 10), WWW Document, (http://concord.org/stem-resources/diffusion-osmosis-and-active-transport).

AJP
Diffusion, Osmosis and Active Transport (The Concord Consortium, Concord, 2010, September 10), WWW Document, (http://concord.org/stem-resources/diffusion-osmosis-and-active-transport).

APA
Diffusion, Osmosis and Active Transport. (2010, September 10). Retrieved 2014, October 21, from The Concord Consortium: http://concord.org/stem-resources/diffusion-osmosis-and-active-transport

Disclaimer: The Concord Consortium offers citation styles as a guide only. We cannot offer interpretations about citations as this is an automated procedure.

Requirements

This activity requires the Java Runtime Environment version 5 (sometimes referred to as 1.5) or later with Java Webstart. You can download it at java.com.

The download for this activity will require 70 KB of disk space.

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The presentation on osmosis

The presentation on osmosis is wrong. Please see: Eric M. Kramer and David R. Myers Am. J. Phys. 80, 694 (2012); doi: 10.1119/1.4722325 http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4722325 Biologists have become a laughing stock for physicists in part because we consistently get osmosis wrong. I hope you will consider fixing this glaring error in an otherwise excellent educational resource. Thanks, Michael Plotkin

Thanks Dr. Plotkin for your

Thanks Dr. Plotkin for your feedback, both here and in private emails. We will use some of your specific comments in a web-based (non-Java) version of this activity, which will replace this one. -Dan Damelin

In a follow up email Dr.

In a follow up email Dr. Plotkin provided some more accessible explanations of osmosis from the world of physics/biophysics: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/234088549_Osmosis_is_not_driven_by_water_dilution/file/5046352ab166abdde0.pdf and http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/05/01/osmosis-confusion-sixty-years-and-counting/ -Dan
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Science of Atoms and MoleculesThis resource is a part of the Concord Consortium's Science of Atoms and Molecules project.

Grade Level
High School, Higher Education
Subject
Biology
Focus Area
Modeling and Simulation
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