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A process by which molecules or particles become evenly distributed throughout a medium. The random movement of particles (see Brownian Motion) drives the diffusion of small molecules and particles in liquids and gases.

The diagram below shows two different types of molecules in two separate compartments. Once the divider is removed, both types of molecules diffuse throughout the whole container. The molecules move from areas of high concentration (of their own species) to areas of low concentration.

From Wikimedia Commons.


Dufresne, Squires, Brenner, and Grier study the diffusion of two micron-sized silica spheres in their letter, Hydrodynamic Coupling of Two Brownian Spheres to a Planar Surface. The authors study the spheres' diffusion coefficients and determine how the proximity to a flat surface affects diffusion.

If you are interested in equations describing diffusion the wikipedia page on the Diffusion Equation is a good place to start.

In the Wikimedia Commons video below, food coloring is dropped into two glasses of water. Can you figure out which glass contains hot water and which contains cold water? Click here for the answer. Diffusion.gif


[1] Dufresne, E. R., Squires, T. M. & Brenner, M. P. Phys. Rev. Lett. 85, 3317-3320 (2000).

[2] http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072495855/student_view0/chapter2/animation__how_diffusion_works.html

[3] http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/kinetic/diffus.html

[4] http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/File:Diffusion.gif

[5] http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/File:Diffusion_%281%29.png

Keyword in references:

A kinetic model of the transformation of a micropatterned amorphous precursor into a porous single crystal

A non equilibrium mechanism for nanobubble stabilization

Diffusion through colloidal shells under stress

Dynamic mechanisms for shear-dependent apparent slip on hydrophobic surfaces, E. Lauga and M. P. Brenner, Phys. Rev. E (2003)

Hydrodynamic Coupling of Two Brownian Spheres

On The Movement of Small Particles Suspended in Stationary Liquids Required By The Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat

Reduction of water evaporation in polymerase chain reaction microfluidic devices based on oscillating-flow

The Elementary Theory of the Brownian Motion

Enriching libraries of high-aspect-ratio micro- or nanostructures by rapid, low-cost, benchtop nanofabrication

Steering nanofibers: An integrative approach to bio-inspired fiber fabrication and assembly

Screening Conditions for Rationally Engineered Electrodeposition of Nanostructures (SCREEN): Electrodeposition and Applications of Polypyrrole Nanofibers using MIcrofluidic Gradients

Synthetic Homeostatic Materials with Chemo-Mechano-Chemical Self-Regulation

Electric-field-induced capillary attraction between like-charged particles at liquid interfaces

Relationship between cellular response and behavioral variability in bacterial chemotaxis

The single-cell chemostat: an agarose-based, microfluidic device for high-throughput, single-cell studies of bacteria and bacterial communities

Interdependence of behavioural variability and response to small stimuli in bacteria

Fine-tuning of chemotactic response in E. coli determined by high-throughput capillary assay

DNA molecules and configurations in a solid-state nanopore microscope

Detection and quantized conductance of neutral atoms near a charged carbon nanotube

Nanometer patterning with ice

Nanoscale volcanoes: Accretion of matter at ion sculpted nanopores

Recapturing and trapping single molecules with a solid-state nanopore

The force-velocity relationship for the actin-based motility of Listeria-Monocytogenes

Elastic behavior of cross-linked and bundled actin networks

Buckling of drying droplets of colloidal suspensions

Non-equilibration of hydrostatic pressure in blebbing cells