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Examples of Diffusion

Diffusion is the spreading of something more widely. This can apply to molecules, atoms, ions, particles, information or cultural elements. Sometimes diffusion happens on its own and sometimes there is something that causes it, like heat or agitation.

Common Examples of Diffusion

  • You can smell perfume because it diffuses into the air and makes its way into your nose.
  • A teabag placed in a cup of hot water will diffuse into the water.
  • Placing food coloring in a liquid will diffuse the color.
  • Cigarette smoke diffuses into the air.
  • A few crystals of potassium permanganate in water will diffuse and turn the water purple.
  • Stirring some sugar into tea will help it diffuse quicker.
  • Leave a soda bottle open and the carbon dioxide bubble will diffuse and leave it flat.
  • When cooking pasta, the water diffuses into the noodles, making them bigger and moister.
  • If you water wilted plants, the water will diffuse into the plants and they will get firmer.
  • A helium balloon will deflate a small amount every day as helium diffuses through the balloon into the air.
  • Heat is diffused during heat conduction, such as a mug getting hot when a hot liquid is placed in it.
  • In leaves, oxygen from the leaf cells diffuses out to the air.
  • Alloys are examples of diffusion, as in copper being diffused in a copper alloy.
  • If two metal blocks are pushed tightly together and remain like that for several years, one metal will diffuse into the other metal.
  • In the crystal solid state, lattice diffusion occurs, which means the atoms move within the lattice structure.
  • In a leaf, carbon dioxide diffuses from the air spaces between mesophyll cells to the chloroplast.

Diffusion in the Human Body

  • Digested particles of food diffuse in the colon.
  • Oxygen in the lungs diffuses from the alveolar air space into the blood circulating around the lungs.
  • Carbon dioxide diffuses from the blood circulating around the lungs into the alveolar air space.
  • Oxygen diffuses from the blood cells in the blood stream into muscles.
  • During pregnancy, food molecules and oxygen diffuse from the mother’s blood to the fetus’s blood supply through the placenta.

Cultural Diffusion

  • People in the United States play soccer, which is played in Mexico.
  • The Spanish took over lands in the Americas and forced the inhabitants to convert to Roman Catholicism.
  • There was a mass migration of Irish to the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Starbucks and McDonalds can be found in many different places all over the world.
  • Computers have made their way around the globe.

Diffusion in Meteorology

  • Atmospheric circulation is the way thermal energy is diffused on the surface of the Earth.
  • In storms, warm air carries moisture and rises within cooler air. This leads to water vapor developing and a storm brewing.
  • Convection is the transfer of heat and it occurs by massive motion in the atmosphere. Examples are the Hadley cell and the polar vortex.
  • Wind is a localized phenomenon due to convection.
  • Ocean currents diffuse warm water from the tropics to the equator.
  • Cold water at the poles moves towards the equator.

Now you have seen many different examples of diffusion.


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