Passive Transport

Section Summary

The passive transport forms, diffusion and osmosis, move materials of small molecular weight across membranes. Substances diffuse from high to lower concentration areas, and this process continues until the substance evenly distributes itself in a system. In solutions containing more than one substance, each molecule type diffuses according to its own concentration gradient, independent of other substances diffusing. Many factors can affect the diffusion rate, such as concentration gradient, diffusing, particle sizes, and the system's temperature.

In living systems, the plasma membrane mediates substances diffusing in and out of cells. Some materials diffuse readily through the membrane, but others are hindered and only can pass through due to specialized proteins such as channels and transporters. The chemistry of living things occurs in aqueous solutions, and balancing the concentrations of those solutions is an ongoing problem. In living systems, diffusing some substances would be slow or difficult without membrane proteins that facilitate transport.