The smart way to improve grades

Comprehensive & curriculum aligned

Try an activity or get started for free

Apply Knowledge of Diffusion

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Image of a pair of socks

 

Why can you smell someone's stinky PE socks from all the way across the classroom? Yuk! Normally it's because sweat and other molecules are moving away from the socks and spread out in the air. This is called diffusion. 

 

Diffusion is the spreading out of the particles of any substance in a solution, or particles of a gas, resulting in movement from an area of higher concentration (where there's more particles in a certain solution or area) to an area of lower concentration (where there are fewer particles).  

 

Image of particles diffusing

 

Living organisms need different substances to be able to survive and function. These substances need to be transported into and out of their cells through diffusion (as well as osmosis and active transport - you will learn more about these later!). During diffusion, molecules move from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. They are said to move downconcentration gradient. Particles diffuse until they are evenly spaced apart. Diffusion is a passive process which means that no energy is needed and it happens naturally. 

 

The surface area to volume ratio of an organism means how much area an organism has in comparison to its volume. As organisms get larger, their surface area to volume ratio gets smaller, for example, an elephant has a smaller surface area to volume ratio than a mouse! Larger organisms tend to have special adaptations to overcome their smaller surface area to volume ratio, read on to find out more!

 

Image of gas exchange in alveolus

 

 

Diffusion in organisms

 

In multicellular organisms, surfaces and organ systems are specialised for exchanging materials. This is to allow sufficient molecules to be transported into and out of cells for the organism’s needs. Diffusion is the main way substances move over short distances in organisms.

 

Breathing involves exchanging gases in the lungs - this requires diffusion. When you breathe in, oxygen in the inhaled air diffuses through the tiny alveoli (air sacs) in your lungs into your bloodstream. The oxygen is transported around your body. Carbon dioxide is the waste gas produced by respiration. Carbon dioxide diffuses from cells into the bloodstream and is exhaled by the lungs. 

 

The alveoli have a few adaptations that make gas exchange very efficient. They are only one cell thick making them very thin, allowing gases to pass through easily and quickly. They also have a large combined surface area which allows large amounts of gases to be exchanged with each breath.

 

Image of villi in intestine

 

Another example of diffusion is in the small intestine. Digested food is broken down into small molecules such as glucose and amino acids. These important molecules need to be transported around the body via the blood. The small intestine is lined with many finger-like projections called villi. The molecules diffuse through the villi of the small intestine into the blood to be transported around the body. The villi are well adapted for this function, being very thin and having finger-like projections that increase the surface area. Villi also have partially permeable membranes. This means the membrane has pores that allow smaller molecules through but not larger molecules.

 

Image of plant photosynthesising Image of leaf anatomy

 

Diffusion also occurs in plants. Plants take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and produce oxygen. These enter and leave the plant through the process of diffusion. The structure of the leaf is adapted for gas exchange. There are tiny pores, called stomata, in the surface of the leaf. There are usually more stomata on the underside of a leaf than on the topside. The stomata allow carbon dioxide to enter the leaf for photosynthesis. Molecules of carbon dioxide diffuse from a region of higher concentration (the atmosphere) to a lower concentrated area (leaf). The stomata also allow oxygen to diffuse out.  

 

 

Factors affecting diffusion

 

Different factors can affect diffusion and how quickly it happens. Some of these factors are:

 

The difference in concentrations (concentration gradient) - having a large difference in concentrations means that diffusion can occur at a quicker rate as particles will naturally move from a high to low concentration. 
The temperature - the higher the temperature, the more energy the particles will have to move and spread out.
The surface area of the membrane - the larger the surface area, the faster the rate of diffusion. This is because more particles can pass through the membrane as there is more area, as in the alveoli in the lungs.
A thin membrane - to provide a short diffusion path

 

In the following activity, you will apply knowledge of factors that affect the process of diffusion.

Red blood cells are small and really thin and have a biconcave shape. They also have a large surface area.

 

Why is this useful?

 

Image of a red blood cell

More space for water to pass through

Less space for oxygen to move through, resulting in a slower rate of diffusion

More space for oxygen to move through, resulting in a faster rate of diffusion

The rate of diffusion is affected by different factors.

 

Match up the sentences describing how these factors affect the rate of diffusion.

Column A

Column B

The greater the difference in concentration...
...the greater the movement of particles, resultin...
The greater the temperature...
...the more space for particles to move through, r...
The greater the surface area...
...the faster the rate of diffusion because more p...

Alveoli have several adaptations that help to make gas exchange very efficient.

 

Select the adaptations below.

 

Image of gas exchange in alveolus

The wall of the small intestine is lined with many projections called villi.

 

 What special features do villi have that increases the speed of diffusion?

 

 

Image of villi in intestine

Very thick membranes

Finger-like projections

Continuous membrane

Very thin

How does the initial concentration of dissolved food molecules in the small intestine compare with the concentration of the blood in the villi?

 

 

Image of villi in intestine

Very thick membranes

Finger-like projections

Continuous membrane

Very thin

10% Carbon Dioxide

Cell A 

2% Carbon Dioxide

Cell B

5% Carbon Dioxide

Cell C

 

 

The diagram above shows three cells. Cell A has a carbon dioxide concentration of 10%, Cell B of 2% and Cell C of 5%.

 

In which directions will the carbon dioxide diffuse?

From Cell A to Cell B and C

From Cell B to Cell A

From Cell C to Cell B

From Cell C to Cell A

Surface area to volume ratios play an important role in living organisms. Bacteria, a mouse and an elephant all have different surface areas and volumes.

 

Which has the biggest surface area to volume ratio? 

 

Image of bacteriaimage of a mouseimage of an elephant

Bacteria

Mouse

Elephant

A cube has 6 sides. Each side has a length of 4 cm.

 

What is its surface area to volume ratio?

 

Image of cube

4 to 1

1.5 to 1

96 to 1

6.4 to 1

A scientist knows that the surface area is important at gas exchange surfaces. She is modelling shapes using 1 cm3 blocks.

She makes two models A, a six-sided cuboid, and B where each block is separate. Each model contains six 1 cm3 blocks.

 

 

Model A: Image of six cubes together  Model B: Image of cubeImage of cubeImage of cubeImage of cubeImage of cubeImage of cube

 

She works out the surface area of each model by counting the sides and starts to put the results in a table.

 

Model 

Surface area (cm2)   Volume (cm3) Surface area : volume ratio 
 A  22  6  
 B  36  6  

 

 

Calculate the surface area to volume ratios for both the models.

 6 : 13.7 : 11 : 62.5 : 1
A
B

Diffusion occurs in plants allowing photosynthesis to occur.

 

Explain how diffusion allows plants to get carbon dioxide into plant cells by matching up the descriptions below. 

 

 

Image of leaf anatomy

Column A

Column B

Cells in the leaf
Carbon dioxide is used in cells for photosynthesis...
Air surrounding the leaf
There is a higher concentration of carbon dioxide ...
Result
Carbon dioxide diffuses through the stomata and in...

Diffusion occurs in plants allowing photosynthesis to occur.

 

Explain how plant cells release oxygen by matching up the descriptions below. 

Column A

Column B

Cells in the leaf
Oxygen is made by photosynthesis - a higher conce...
Air surrounding the leaf
Oxygen diffuses out of the cells and through the s...
Result
There is a lower concentration of oxygen in the ai...
  • Question 1

Red blood cells are small and really thin and have a biconcave shape. They also have a large surface area.

 

Why is this useful?

 

Image of a red blood cell

CORRECT ANSWER
More space for oxygen to move through, resulting in a faster rate of diffusion
EDDIE SAYS
There were three plausible options here, so let's work through them one at a time. Red blood cells do not carry water, so option one can't be correct. That gets rid of that one! Red blood cells transport oxygen around the body. Having a large surface area means that there is more area for the oxygen particles to pass through, which will allow more oxygen to diffuse into the red blood cell from the lungs and speed up the rate of diffusion.
  • Question 2

The rate of diffusion is affected by different factors.

 

Match up the sentences describing how these factors affect the rate of diffusion.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

The greater the difference in con...
...the faster the rate of diffusi...
The greater the temperature...
...the greater the movement of pa...
The greater the surface area...
...the more space for particles t...
EDDIE SAYS
These were long statements to work through, but don't let that put you off. Read each one through slowly and think about the statement pairings. A greater temperature will increase the movement of the molecules; a larger surface area will provide more space for movement; and the difference in concentration will affect the concentration gradient. Once you look at them carefully, it does make sense. Take the time to remember these key factors as you are often asked about them in exams. Maybe you can try this question a few times to consolidate your knowledge.
  • Question 3

Alveoli have several adaptations that help to make gas exchange very efficient.

 

Select the adaptations below.

 

Image of gas exchange in alveolus

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on with this matching question? Some were quite tricky, weren't they? The alveoli are moist, which encourages gas molecules to easily dissolve, thus allowing gas exchange to happen quickly. They're also covered by a network of capillaries, enabling gases to pass almost directly between the lungs and bloodstream. The above adaptations allow alveoli to be really good at their job.
  • Question 4

The wall of the small intestine is lined with many projections called villi.

 

 What special features do villi have that increases the speed of diffusion?

 

 

Image of villi in intestine

CORRECT ANSWER
Finger-like projections
Very thin
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on with this one? The two options to do with membranes were incorrect - villi have a partially permeable membrane which is not an option on the list. In the small intestine, villi are very thin, which allows substances to pass through really quickly. Also, the finger-like projections increase the surface area of the small intestine, speeding up the rate of diffusion.
  • Question 5

How does the initial concentration of dissolved food molecules in the small intestine compare with the concentration of the blood in the villi?

 

 

Image of villi in intestine

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Phew - what a lot of blanks to fill in - did you get them all correct? Don't be daunted by large pieces of text like this one - just read it through carefully and take it one step at a time. Digestion is another example of where diffusion is important. Digested substances like glucose and amino acids are in high concentration from all the food that's been eaten. The blood has a lower concentration of these substances, so they diffuse into the blood from the small intestine, via the villi.
  • Question 6

10% Carbon Dioxide

Cell A 

2% Carbon Dioxide

Cell B

5% Carbon Dioxide

Cell C

 

 

The diagram above shows three cells. Cell A has a carbon dioxide concentration of 10%, Cell B of 2% and Cell C of 5%.

 

In which directions will the carbon dioxide diffuse?

CORRECT ANSWER
From Cell A to Cell B and C
From Cell C to Cell B
EDDIE SAYS
What a lot of letters to get your head around! Essentially, particles will always move from a higher concentration to a lower concentration. Cell A has more carbon dioxide particles than Cell B or Cell C, so particles will move out of Cell A and into Cell B and Cell C until there are equal numbers of particles in each cell. Cell C has a higher concentration of carbon dioxide than Cell B, so again, particles will diffuse out of Cell C and into Cell B.
  • Question 7

Surface area to volume ratios play an important role in living organisms. Bacteria, a mouse and an elephant all have different surface areas and volumes.

 

Which has the biggest surface area to volume ratio? 

 

Image of bacteriaimage of a mouseimage of an elephant

CORRECT ANSWER
Bacteria
EDDIE SAYS
Did this one confuse you? Although the elephant is the largest organism of the three, its surface area to volume ratio doesn’t increase at the same rate. Remember, as cells get bigger the surface area to volume ratio gets smaller.
  • Question 8

A cube has 6 sides. Each side has a length of 4 cm.

 

What is its surface area to volume ratio?

 

Image of cube

CORRECT ANSWER
1.5 to 1
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on with this maths question? You need to find both the area and the volume of the cube. To calculate surface area: 4 x 4 x 6 (there are 6 sides) = 96 cm² To calculate volume: 4 x 4 x 4 = 64 cm³ 96 ÷ 64 = 1.5 So the ratio is 1.5 : 1 or 1.5 to 1
  • Question 9

A scientist knows that the surface area is important at gas exchange surfaces. She is modelling shapes using 1 cm3 blocks.

She makes two models A, a six-sided cuboid, and B where each block is separate. Each model contains six 1 cm3 blocks.

 

 

Model A: Image of six cubes together  Model B: Image of cubeImage of cubeImage of cubeImage of cubeImage of cubeImage of cube

 

She works out the surface area of each model by counting the sides and starts to put the results in a table.

 

Model 

Surface area (cm2)   Volume (cm3) Surface area : volume ratio 
 A  22  6  
 B  36  6  

 

 

Calculate the surface area to volume ratios for both the models.

CORRECT ANSWER
 6 : 13.7 : 11 : 62.5 : 1
A
B
EDDIE SAYS
To calculate the surface area of model A (a cuboid): (2 x 3) + (2 x 1) + (3 x 1) x 2 = 22 cm² To calculate the volume of the cuboid: 2 x 1 = 2 ; 2 x 3 = 6 cm³ 22 ÷ 6 = 3.7 Surface area to volume ratio = 3.7 : 1 To calculate the surface area of model B: 1 x 1 x 6 = 6 cm² There are six individual cubes so, 6 x 6 = 36 cm² To calculate the volume of model B: For one cube: 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 cm³ For six cubes: 1 x 6 = 6 cm³ 36 ÷ 6 = 6 Surface area to volume ratio = 6 : 1
  • Question 10

Diffusion occurs in plants allowing photosynthesis to occur.

 

Explain how diffusion allows plants to get carbon dioxide into plant cells by matching up the descriptions below. 

 

 

Image of leaf anatomy

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Cells in the leaf
Carbon dioxide is used in cells f...
Air surrounding the leaf
There is a higher concentration o...
Result
Carbon dioxide diffuses through t...
EDDIE SAYS
Remember, more concentrated → less concentrated! There's more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than in the cells in the leaf, so carbon dioxide naturally moves down a concentration gradient into the cells.
  • Question 11

Diffusion occurs in plants allowing photosynthesis to occur.

 

Explain how plant cells release oxygen by matching up the descriptions below. 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Cells in the leaf
Oxygen is made by photosynthesis ...
Air surrounding the leaf
There is a lower concentration of...
Result
Oxygen diffuses out of the cells ...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you think you'd already done this question?! The options were very similar, but if you read the question carefully, you'll see that this one is about the movement of oxygen, not carbon dioxide! Oxygen follows the opposite pathway to carbon dioxide, so there's more oxygen in the cells in the leaf compared to the atmosphere, so oxygen diffuses out of the cells into the air. Well done if you feel that you've got this sorted now! If you're still finding some of it tricky, why not read the Introduction again and have a second go at these questions.
---- OR ----

Get started for free so you can track and measure your child's progress on this activity.

What is EdPlace?

We're your National Curriculum aligned online education content provider helping each child succeed in English, maths and science from year 1 to GCSE. With an EdPlace account you’ll be able to track and measure progress, helping each child achieve their best. We build confidence and attainment by personalising each child’s learning at a level that suits them.

Get started
laptop

Try an activity or get started for free