Questions Science and Education

What is the difference between osmosis and diffusion?


Swati Jobin

Wake up with a purpose

Osmosis is seen as the movement of solvent particles through a semipermeable membrane. The dilute solution passes into a very concentrated solution and vice versa. It equalizes the given concentration on both the sides of the layer. Diffusion, on the other hand, is classified as the movement of particles from a high level of concentration to that of a lower one and vice versa. Its overall aim is to ensure that the attention is equal to the whole medium. 

Factors affecting these are:


  • The Diffusion distance: If the amount of surface area is high, the rate of the molecule to cross the area is more and vice versa.
  • Temperature: When the temperature is high, the occupancy of osmosis will be more.
  • Concentration gradient: Osmosis occurs when the concentration area of the membrane is high as compared to low concentration area on the other.


  • The Molecular weight: The larger the molecular weight, the slower will be the movement. 
  • The Concentration gradient: Greater the concentration, higher the diffusion.
  • State of the matter: Diffusion in a liquid will be less, and it will be faster in a gas molecule.
  • Temperature: When the temperature is high, the rate of diffusion will be more.

Difference between Osmosis and Diffusion:

The main difference between these two is that osmosis is known as the movement of solvent from an area of high concentration to that of a lower one and vice versa using a semipermeable membrane to maintain the equilibrium. But diffusion is seen as the transfer of molecules (solids, liquids or gases) from an area of high concentration to a lower one and vice versa and it can work in an environment which has a semipermeable membrane or not. 

The process of osmosis undertakes in the liquid medium whereas the process of diffusion makes in any medium including solid, liquid and gas.

Diffusion that takes place across the membrane is dependent on the electric charge and size of the molecules. Smaller molecules are known to diffuse faster in comparison to the larger molecules. However, in the case of osmosis, it is the flow of water molecules that is dependent on the concentration of the particle. It is not dependent on the type of molecule.

Diffusion is a process that can take place with or without a membrane between two areas of different concentrations of molecules. But this does not case when it comes to osmosis as it takes place only in the semipermeable membrane. This is the membrane that is known to prevent many molecules or particles to freely move between the two sides of the molecules, while the water is passing through it.

After going through the above discussion, the difference between osmosis and diffusion should be clear to you. Well, now that you know the difference between the two, it will be easier for you to understand the processes correctly.

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