Passive Cell Transport

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12189

Wouldn't it be nice if information just flowed into your brain without studying? Cells do that with some chemicals; they just move into the cell without any effort on the cell's part! Experiment time!


Life Science

learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Notice how the water levels in the picture above changed. How did the water level move over time? Can you make a prediction why it moved that way? Ask your cells!

You have learned how cell membranes are organized to allow for transport of materials into and out of the cell.

If you missed or want a refresher on the previous Cell Transport lesson, check it out under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

Remember that cell membranes are made up of different components, such as phospholipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and cholesterol. All of these pieces work together to create a membrane that functions to support cellular processes. In this lesson, you will learn about passive transport. Passive transport is the movement of materials across the cell membrane without using energy!

Think about what happens when you put Kool-Aid in water — the color slowly moves throughout the entire glass or pitcher.

Passive transport works in a very similar way, moving substances from areas of high concentration to low concentration. Concentration is a measure of how much of something you have in a given area. There is a high concentration of sugar in ice cream, which makes it so good! Think of the Kool-Aid packet as having a high concentration and the surrounding water having a lower concentration. Another example is perfume or cologne being sprayed from a bottle. The bottle represents a high concentration moving in spray form into an area of lower concentration in the surrounding air.

Another name for passive transport is "diffusion," as pictured above. Notice how the pinkmolecules move and equally distribute through the sample of blue molecules.

Water diffuses across the cell membrane to keep a healthy water balance. When water diffuses, it is called "osmosis." As you observe the image, pay close attention to how the pink molecules are moving in context to the blue molecules!

Observe the image above and notice how only the pink molecules move across the filter membrane. This is very similar to how water moves across the cell membrane.

  • Do you remember what semi-permeable means?

That means membranes can select which substances are able to move into and out of the cell.

The last type of passive transport is called "facilitated diffusion."

  • What does the word "facilitate" mean?

If you said, "to assist or help," you are right! Facilitated diffusion occurs when proteins help substances move across the cell membrane. Facilitated diffusion is used when larger molecules need to move into or out of the cell and cannot fit between the phospholipids. Even though proteins are used, there is no energy input!

Passive transport is constantly occurring in cells throughout your body. Cells are required to maintain nutrient and water balance in order to continue to function. In passive transport, materials move across the cell membrane without energy. There are three types of passive transport: diffusion, osmosis, and facilitated diffusion.

  • How is osmosis unique?
  • What helps larger molecules move across the cell membrane?
  • What do you think would happen if cells were not able to carry out passive transport?

Discuss what you have learned with a parent or teacher before moving on.

In the Got It? section, you will review types of passive transport.

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