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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


Nanoscale Volcanoes: Accretion of Matter at Ion-Sculpted Nanopores

Understanding the diffusive properties of matter on a substrate surface as a result of an electric field driving force is helpful in creating arrays of nanosized pores which are useful in the application of DNA sequencing. Mitsui et al demonstrated that an ion beam generated electric field causes atoms on the surface of a substrate to be drawn toward nanopores that are behaving as “traps” for the matter. The diffused atoms close the nanopores and form volcanic ridges along the periphery. These atoms can diffuse longer distances than previously recorded in literature.

Colloidal spheres confined by liquid droplets: Geometry, physics, and physical chemistry

Vinothan Manoharan describes various stable structures formed by spherical colloids in emulsion drops. By carefully balancing the thermal energy of the system with inter-colloid and colloid-interface interactions, different structures can be created. The diffusive (Brownian) motions of the colloids enables them to explore different configurations and ultimately self-assemble into stable structures.


[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

Synthesis and Phase Stability in Ultra-thin Solid Electrolytes: The Case of Zirconia Thin Films

Colloidal spheres confined by liquid droplets: Geometry, physics, and physical chemistry

Design and Synthesis of Model Transparent Aqueous Colloids with Optimal Scattering Properties Dynamics of fracture in drying suspensions

The universal dynamics of cell spreading

Force of an actin spring

Gravitational stability of suspensions of attractive colloidal particles

Optimal vein density in artificial and real leaves

Statistical dynamics of flowing red blood cells by morphological image processing

Flip-flop-induced relaxation of bending energy: implications for membrane remodeling

Physiological and pathological population dynamics of circulating human red blood cells

Elastohydrodynamics of wet bristles, carpets and brushes

Motility driven by macromolecular springs and ratchets

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

Pin-Hole Array Correlation Imaging: Highly Parallel Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy

Fast Microtubule Dynamics in Meiotic Spindles Measured by Single Molecule Imaging: Evidence that the Spindle Environment does not Stabilize Microtubules

Rise of the Source-Sink Model

Single molecule statistics and the polynucleotide unzipping transition

Grain Boundary Scars and Spherical Crystallography

Non-random-coil behavior as a consequence of extensive PPII structure in the denatured state

Minimal model for kinetic arrest

Equilibrating Nanoparticle Monolayers UsingWetting Films

Synthesis and Phase Stability in Ultra-thin Solid Electrolytes: The Case of Zirconia Thin Films

A theory of coupled diffusion and large deformation in polymeric gels

Large deformation and electrochemistry of polyelectrolyte gels

Indentation of polydimethylsiloxane submerged in organic solvents

Intracellular transport by active diffusion

Soft colloids make strong glasses

Optical Measurements of Frequency-Dependent Linear Viscoelastic Moduli of Complex Fluids

Hyperbranched polyglycerols on the nanometer and micrometer scale

Janus Microgels Produced from Functional Precursor Polymers

Perturbation Spreading in Many-Particle Systems: A Random Walk Approach

Langevin Dynamics Deciphers the Motility Pattern of Swimming Parasites

Diffusion through colloidal shells under stress

Dealing with mechanics: mechanisms of force transduction in cells

Actin Filament Length Tunes Elasticity of Flexibly Cross-Linked Actin Networks

Direct imaging of repulsive and attractive colloidal glasses

Influence of Internal Capsid Pressure on Viral Infection by Phage λ

Nanomechanics of vimentin intermediate filament networks

Surface roughness directed self-assembly of patchy particles into colloidal micelles

Origin of de-swelling and dynamics of dense ionic microgel suspensions