Passive transport means moving biochemicals and atomic or molecular substances across the cell membrane.

Unlike active transport, this process does not involve chemical energy. The four main kinds of passive transport are diffusion, facilitated diffusion, filtration and osmosis.
In diffusion, molecules travel from a higher concentration to a lower concentration. When you put a drop of ink in a glass of water, the spreading of the ink in the water is called diffusion. Similarly, if you spray an air freshener in one corner of a room, eventually people on the other side of the room will be able to smell it as well because the scent has diffused. In osmosis, molecules also travel from higher concentration to a lower concentration. However, osmosis specifically refers to the movement of WATER molecules. Both of these types of transport are examples of passive transport, which requires no energy.

Factors Affecting the Rate Diffusion and Osmosis Size Small molecules can slip by the polar heads of the phospholipids and through the membrane to the other side. Oxygen gas, carbon dioxide and water can move in this manner. Very large molecules like proteins cannot diffuse across the membrane at all. Shape Glucose is able to get into cells much faster than other sugars. This is accomplished by facilitated diffusion. A carrier protein specific for glucose (not other sugars) combines with it on the outer surface, closes around it, and then opens to the inside of the cell where the glucose is released. The carrier then returns to its original shape and is ready to transport another glucose molecule. These carriers can move up to 100 glucose molecules per second across the cell membrane. Concentration The greater the concentration gradient between the outside and inside of the membrane the greater the rate of diffusion. If the concentration of oxygen outside the cell increases then it will diffuse more quickly into the cell. The opposite is also true. If a muscle cell for example is working hard and using up large quantities of oxygen in cellular respiration producing ATP, then the low levels inside the cell will increase the concentration gradient compared to outside and the rate of diffusion of oxygen into the cell will increase. The same conditions in a muscle cell would create high concentrations of carbon dioxide inside the cell and increase the rate of diffusion from inside to outside. Charge (+/-) Ions or molecules with a charge cannot pass through the lipid bilayer by diffusion. Other mechanisms involving protein carriers and ATP energy are required. The sodium/potassium ion pump is an example of this type of transport. Lipid Solubility Lipid soluble molecules can move through the lipid bilayer. Generally these molecules are other lipids. Steroid hormones like testosterone and estrogen are examples of such molecules. This easy access to cells explains the powerful and wide ranging effects of such hormones. Temperature In general, increases in temperature cause all molecules to move faster. Diffusion is a passive movement of molecules so quicker molecule movement translates into quicker diffusion.

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