Difference Between Osmosis vs Diffusion

Difference Between Osmosis vs Diffusion

If you have been wondering about the difference between osmosis and diffusion for some time, then you are in luck. Today, we are going to clarify these two words that are often confused.

In their base form, both words are actually direct opposites of one another. You will soon understand precisely how and why when we dive into the exact definitions of each word in conjunction with providing you with a quick reference table that you can come back to anytime you find yourself lost on this subject in the future. If you are ready to lay to rest any confusion over this subject, then simply read on.

Definition of Osmosis

The definition of osmosis is the collection of loose particles in liquid or oxygen via passage through a permeable membrane in order to concentrate them.

To provide 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 define 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, which can vary depending on the intended purpose of the filter itself. Then, the harmful substance can be concentrated together, and the negative impact can be nullified.

It is this concentrating and focusing of loose particles into one smaller and more compact area that forms the basis of osmosis no matter what form it comes in. This 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 is likely that in the physical world around us, we will see more examples of diffusion than osmosis because the process is typically associated with more of the natural and artificial actions and situations we either create or partake in.

Definition of Diffusion

The definition of diffusion is the expulsion of gathered particles contained in a concentrated area into a wider and more expansive area.

Already, it is very clear to see when reading the above description that what helps us define the difference between these two words is the fact that one involves the gathering of particles and that 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 with exhaust fumes when we use our cars, 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 is easy to visualize the differences if you imagine that one (osmosis) involves “shrinking” particles down to a small area whereas the other (diffusion) involves spreading particles over an expanded area. Ultimately, they are related through the fact that they lead to particles following the exact opposite trajectory to one another.

Main Differences Between Osmosis vs Diffusion

We will now cover the key differences between osmosis vs diffusion in a quick reference table.

Basis of ComparisonOsmosisDiffusion
Associated mediumUsually occurs in liquid but can occur with solids and gasesRelates to liquids, solids, and gases
MembraneAlways involves a membraneDoes not involve a membrane
Speed of processSlowFast
NatureInvolves passively transporting moleculesAlso involves passively transporting molecules
Size of collected particle areaSmall and concentratedLarge and voluminous

Difference Between Osmosis and Diffusion: Conclusion

In summary though, while it can initially be difficult to understand these two processes, today’s post should have finally helped to shed some conclusive light on both.

The two can be summarized when we remember that osmosis introduces particles into a smaller space and that diffusion introduces them into a larger space. Should you find yourself confused about this subject in the future, simply take another look at our quick reference table for a refresh.