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Water potential is the tendency of water molecules to move from one region to another through
selectively permeable membrane. It is affected by the concentration of solute in the solution.
Water will always move from a higher water potential area(higher free energy, higher amount of
water molecules) to a lower water potential area(lower free energy, lesser amount of water
molecules). Water diffuses down the water potential gradient. There are two physical factors that
affects the water potential, which are addition of solute and pressure potential(physical pressure).

water potential

= pressure potential

solute potential

Solute potential is always negative as solute molecules lower the water potential. The
more negative the value of solute potential, the higher the concentration of the solution. The
value of distilled water has the highest water potential of zero(=0). Distilled water has higher
water potential(lower osmotic potential) than the potato strip which has a lower water
potential(higher osmotic potential). In other words, distilled water is more hypotonic to the
potato strip. Thus, as the potato strip is placed in the distilled water, the distilled water molecules
move from a higher water potential region to a lower water potential region. When distilled
water moves into the vacuole of the plant cell, this causes the volume of protoplasm to expand,
and the cell membrane pushes against the cell wall. This creates positive turgor pressure in the
cell. Thus, the mass of potato strip increases after immersing into the distilled In potato
strip, the presence of a cell wall prevents cells from rupturing and exerts an equal and opposite
pressure to that of the protoplasm. This prevent a net flow of water into the cell, therefore there is
no further cellular expansion. In contrast, if the water moves into an animal cell, it will swell and
burst eventually due to the absence of cell wall.(CITATION) In summary, water potential is
inversely proportional to solute concentration. As 0.2 M of sucrose solution has high solute
concentration than potato cell, therefore 0.2 M sucrose solution exists as a hypotonic solution.
Water molecules in sucrose move into the potato strip, causes the potato strip to swell and the
mass of the potato strip increases eventually. The solute potential of 0.2M of sucrose is lower
than that of the distilled water which indicates that more water diffuses into the potato strip
which soaked in the distilled water.
When the potato strip is placed in an 0.6 M, 0.8M and 1.0M sucrose solutions, which has a
higher solute concentration than the potato strip, the mass of the potato strip decreases. This is
because the water molecules moves from potato strips which has higher water potential to 0.6 M,
0.8M, 1.0M sucrose solutions which have a lower water potential. The net movement of water is
out of the potato cell. The pressure potential of the potato cell is 0. Therefore, the water potential
is equal to its solute potential. The protoplasm loses water and shrinks away from the cell wall.
The cell surface membrane is pulled away from the cell wall. This process is called plasmolysis.

As the potato strip is immersed into 0.4M sucrose solution, the mass of the potato strip

remain unchanged? The water molecules enter and exits the potato cell by osmosis at
a same rate, thus this indicates that the water potential inside the potato cell is equal to the water potential
of 0.4M sucrose solution. There is no net movement of water molecules in and out of the potato cell.

Sources of error
There were some errors encountered during the experiment. It is found that the evaporation of
water in the test tubes may increase the concentration slightly, thus causing the calculations of
mass change of potato strips to be affected. A precautionary step should be taken by sealing each
test tube with a rubber stopper to ensure the concentrations of sucrose solution and distilled
water remain the same throughout the experiment.
The next limitation incurred was the drying method used to remove the water outside the surface
of the potato strip. Using tissue paper to absorb the excess water on the surface of potato strips
may incur more human error. Thus, to obtain a more accurate result, a fair drying method should
be used by allowing all the potato strips to dry for five minutes before the masses are measured.
Another precautionary step that should be taken is that the skin of potato strips must be peeled
off as the skin of potato strips are impermeable to water. As osmosis cannot occur across an
impermeable membrane, the skin of potato strips must be peeled off to produce a partially
permeable membrane before immersing into the distilled water and sucrose solutions.
The potato strips must be immersed fully into the solutions to ensure all cells of the potato strips
are being tested. This precautionary step should be carried out to ensure the accurate measuring
in the final masses of the potato strips.
Factors to ensure a fair experiment
There are some factors that should be kept constant to carry out a fair experiment. First, the
surface area of potato should be kept constant because if there is more surface area between the
cells and surrounding sucrose solution, then there will be more cells in contact with the solution.
Thus, the larger surface area potato strips will cause a larger volume of water to enter or leave
the cell at a given time. This factor will affect the accuracy of the results, so it is important that
the surface area of potato strips to be kept constant.

The next factor that should be kept constant is the time of potato strips immersed in the solution. More
water movement will occur if the potato strips are immersed in the solutions at a longer time. The results
of the experiment will be unfair due to the different time taken to immerse the potato strips in the
solutions. Hence, the time of potato strips immersed in the solutions should be kept constant at 25minutes
to obtain the accurate mass measurements.

The last factor that should be kept constant is the volume of solution. The volume of solution would affect
the experiment because different volume of solution contains different number of molecules. The
difference in water solutions will cause the difference in initial water potential of the solutions and cause
the experiment to be inaccurate. Therefore, it should be made sure that the volume of solution should be
fixed in the experiment.