When is equilibrium reached in diffusion?

1 Answer
Oct 21, 2016

Equilibrium is reached when there is a uniform distribution of solvent particles or when there is an equal concentration of solute on each side of a membrane.


Diffusion is the spontaneous movement of particles from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration.

There are two types of diffusion: (a) a fluid through a fluid and (b) diffusion through a membrane.

Diffusion through a fluid

If you introduce a drop of purple dye into a beaker of water, the dye moves throughout the solution.

(From Wikipedia)

The diffusion continues until the colour is evenly distributed.

At this point, the process is at equilibrium.

Diffusion across a membrane

A substance may be present in unequal concentrations on either side of a cell membrane, as shown in the left-hand side of the figure below.

Membrane diffusion
(From oerpub.github.io)

If the molecules are small enough to cross the cell membrane, they will tend to move toward the area where they are less concentrated.

Molecules can move across the cell membrane in both directions, but more move in from the side with higher concentration.

Eventually, the concentration of the molecules on each side of the cell membrane will be the same and particles will be going back and forth through the membrane at the same rate.

At that point, equilibrium is reached.