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Osmosis is the diffusion of water molecules across a partially
permeable membrane, from a region of high concentration to a region of
low concentration. The partially permeable membrane contains a series
of small holes, allowing only water molecules to pass through, as
shown in the diagram below. The glucose molecules (represented by red
circles) are too big to fit through the membrane. As there are a
greater number of water molecules (represented by blue circles) on the
left side, there is a steady net flow into the right side with fewer
water molecules, i.e. into the stronger solution.
Water moves into and out of plant cells by osmosis, depending on the
concentration of the surrounding solutions. When water moves into a
plant cell, the vacuole increases in size, pushing the cell membrane
against the cell wall. The cell wall makes sure that too much water
doesn't enter, which would cause the cell to burst. The cell becomes
turgid or firm when the cell membrane pushes against the cell wall. It
gives the cell support and keeps the plant upright. Plant cells which
do not receive enough water cannot stay turgid and so wilting occurs.
Cells which are not turgid are described as flaccid. If a plant cell
loses too much water by osmosis, plasmolysis occurs, and plasmolysed
cells are unlikely to survive.
Aim of investigation
In my investigation, I aim to investigate what factors would have most
effect on osmosis in plant cells. There are several factors which
could have an impact on osmosis in plant cells, which include:
Â· Surface area of the plant
Â· Sucrose concentration of the water
Â· Age of the plant
Â· Type or variety of plant
Â· Atmospheric temperature
Â· Mass of the plant
From these options, the option I will be investigating is the sucrose
concentration of the water. I can have full control over this factor.
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My aim is to investigate the effect of varying concentration of a
certain sugar solution on the amount of osmotic activity between the
solution and a potato plug of a given size.
I predict that the higher the water potential of the water outside the
plant, the quicker osmosis will take place. This is because water
flows in from a higher concentration of water molecules to a lower
concentration of water molecules in the cell sap of plant cells, and
hence the mass of the plant will increase.
Â· White tile
Â· Measuring cylinder
Â· Paper towels
Â· 6 test tubes
Â· 6 wooden corks
Â· Sucrose solution
Â· Distilled water
Â· Use borer to cut 6 potato plugs from the same potato. Make sure
potato is on the white tile.
Â· Using the ruler and scalpel, cut each potato plug to 2cm in length.
Name the plugs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Â· Dry the potato plugs using a paper towel and then weigh each one.
Record each plug's mass.
Â· Name each of the 6 test tubes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Put the
corresponding potato plug beside each.
Â· Measure the correct concentration of sucrose solutions for each of
the six test tubes with the measuring cylinder and the syringe, using
the table below.
Volume of sucrose
Volume of distilled water
Â· This will ensure that 20cmÂ³ of solution will be used for each. Pour
the solutions into the corresponding test tube, i.e. solution 1 into
test tube 1, etc.
Â· Place each plug into the corresponding test tube, and try to do so
at the same time. Leave for the desired period of time (in my
experiment's case, one week).
Â· Put a wooden cork on the top of each test tube to prevent
evaporation of water into the surrounding air.
Â· After this period of time, take all plugs out of the test tubes
carefully. Place on separate paper towels, and dry each to remove
Â· Weigh the potato plugs for a second time, and record the results,
making it possible to compare the masses before and after the
experiment, i.e. being able to show whether the mass of the plug has
increased or decreased.
(a) Independent variable. The independent variable is the factor that
needs to be changed to experiment. In this case, the independent
variable is the sucrose concentration of the water.
(b) Dependent variable. The dependent variable is what is measured in
the experiment, and here it is the change in mass of the potato plug.
(c) Control variables. The control variables are factors that need to
be kept the same in order to make it a fair test. There are many
control variables in this experiment, including volume of water,
atmospheric temperature, shape of container, time elapsed, initial
mass of potato plug, same potato used, same scales used, etc.
It is also important to repeat the test a number of times and get the
average results, in order to make my results as precise as possible.
Instead of doing the test again myself a number of times, I will get
the results from other groups doing the experiment.
In order to keep my experiment safe, I will: do all cutting on a white
tile; be careful not to spill any sucrose solution or distilled water;
have paper towels near at hand to clean up any spillages which may
occur; take care while using the scalpel.
My group's results
Mass of potato plug
As a percentage
A graph for these results is shown on the next page (page 6).
Average results of all groups
Percentage change in mass
A graph for these results is shown on page 7.
Explanation of results
When comparing my group's results to the overall average results, we
can see that there is a difference in the trend of the graph. My
group's line graph went up, and then decreased, and went back up
again; while the average results' line graph just gradually decreased.
From the average results we see that the solutions with sucrose
concentrations of 0%, 5% and 10% made the potato plug increase in
mass. We also see that the solutions with sucrose concentrations of
15%, 20% and 25% made the potato plug decrease in mass.
From the average results we also see that the least concentrated
solution had the biggest increase in mass, and the most concentrated
solution had the biggest decrease in mass. The graph showing the
average results show this, as there is a pattern of the points plotted
Interpretation of results
The difference in trends in my group's results and the average results
may be explained by an inaccurate reading, or maybe by not removing
all excess water.
The solutions with sucrose concentrations of 0%, 5% and 10% were
hypotonic solutions. Endo-osmosis took place here (water travelled
into the plug). The solutions with sucrose concentrations of 15%, 20%
and 25% were hypertonic solutions. Ex-osmosis took place here (water
travelled out of the plug).
From the fact that the least concentrated solution had the biggest
increase in mass and the most concentrated solution had the biggest
decrease in mass, we can say that the higher the water potential
outside the plant, the quicker osmosis will take place. The graph of
the average results shows this too, as the biggest increase in mass
was for 0% sucrose concentration solution, which gradually decreased.
Evaluation of results
The experiment was quite successful in my opinion. The fact that I got
results from five groups and found the average results made my results
more reliable and accurate. I think I obtained a sufficient number of
results from which I was able to create an informative and more
I think the time that I used for the experiment to last was enough to
allow sufficient osmosis to occur. However if I was to repeat the
experiment I might well increase the length of time to allow more
osmosis to happen and possibly find out the saturation point of the
The range of concentrations was adequate, but if I were to do the
experiment again I would possibly create more concentrations so that I
would have more varied results. This way would have allowed me to also
find out the isotonic point far more accurately as the one that I
estimated (page 5) is rather approximate.
I could have also made the results more accurate, i.e. to records my
results to more than only two decimal places.
There were not many out of the ordinary results, but some were not as
close to the line as others. When the potato chips were removed from
the test tubes and dried some groups may well have dried some potatoes
more thoroughly than others and so some would have more excess water,
which would add to the mass. However with all this said I think that
the experiment was quite successful and I was very pleased with the
complete comparison of my results with my initial prediction.