What is Diffusion?

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What is Diffusion?

There are many scientific concepts that we cannot readily relate to because they rarely cross our paths in everyday activity. Actually witnessing them will almost always require putting on a lab coat and going through an intricate process which might eventually not give the desired results. This however is far from the case when it comes to diffusion. This is one scientific concept that is almost surely taking place as you read this article. Everywhere, every minute, diffusion is taking place. It applies in physics, chemistry, biology, geology, engineering and almost all other sciences.

The most basic description of diffusion is the random movement of particles from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. The term particles as used in the description here is best replaced by molecule so as to allow for a better understanding since particle may be taken to refer to solid material only. Diffusion involves movement of molecules in any state and through any media. Smoke going up in the air, ink spreading in water and salt in water are examples of molecules in various states going through the process of diffusion. Diffusion of metals into metals is rare and will normally take a very long time. One example that is commonly used to demonstrate solid into solid diffusion is where gold and lead are placed next to each other and after a period traces of each are found in the other.

The rate of diffusion will normally depend on three things. These three conditions are temperature, size of particles and the viscosity of the media of diffusion. Higher temperatures facilitate faster diffusion while lower temperatures tend to slow down the process. Bigger sized particles also result in slower diffusion. This is why diffusion of solids is much slower than that of gases or liquids. The viscosity of the media that diffusion is taking place in also has a major role in determining the rate of diffusion. A more viscous media will result in a slower diffusion. Lighter media results in faster diffusion since particles are able to move through the media at a much faster rate.

Diffusion has some critical roles even in our lives and those of other living things. Oxygen from our lungs goes into the bloodstream through the process of diffusion. This is because the air in the lungs has a higher concentration of oxygen as compared to the blood. Diffusion is also the processes through which plants get water from the soil. The roots of the plants will have a lower concentration of water as compared to the soil around them and this will cause diffusion of water into the roots from the soil to occur. Once the roots and soil have an equal concentration of water the diffusion stops. This are two very important life supporting process which take place through the process of diffusion. The aroma of a delicious meal being cooked in the kitchen is also another important example of diffusion without which we might miss lunch.

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