Osmosis in Potato Chips

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Biology GCSE Coursework: Osmosis in Potato Chips
Skill Area P: Planning

Aim: To investigate the effect of varying concentration of a certain sugar solution on the amount of osmotic activity between the solution and a potato chip of a given size.

Hypothesis: Osmosis is defined as the net movement of water or any other solution's molecules from a region in which they are highly concentrated to a region in which they are less concentrated. This movement must take place across a partially permeable membrane such as a cell wall, which lets smaller molecules such as water through but does not allow bigger molecules to pass through. The molecules will continue to diffuse until the area in which the molecules are found reaches a state of equilibrium, meaning that the molecules are randomly distributed throughout an object, with no area having a higher or lower concentration than any other.

For this particular investigation I think that the lower the concentration of the sugar solution in the test tube the larger the mass of the potato will be. This is because the water molecules pass from a high concentration, i.e. In the water itself, to a low concentration, i.e. In the potato chip. Therefore, the chips in higher water concentrations will have a larger mass than in higher sugar concentrations.

The graph above shows a simple curve obtained when the concentration of the solution is plotted against the percentage change in mass.

 At point A the graph tells the viewer that no osmosis has occurred, suggesting that the concentration of water inside the cell is equal to the solution outside.

 At point B (high water concentration), there is no indication that the cell is increasing further in size. This is because the cell is fully turgid and no more water can enter.

 At point C (low water concentrations), there is no indication that the cell is decreasing further in size. This is because the cell is fully plasmolysed and no more water can leave the cell.

Further information on potato plant cells:

Plant cells always have a strong cell wall surrounding them. When they take up water by osmosis they start to swell, but the cell wall prevents them from bursting. Plant cells become "turgid" when they are put in dilute solutions. Turgid means swollen and hard. The pressure inside the cell rises and eventually the internal pressure of the cell is so high that no more water can enter the cell. This liquid or hydrostatic pressure works against osmosis. Turgidity is very important to plants because this is what make the green parts of the plant "stand up" into the sunlight.

When plant cells are placed in concentrated sugar solutions they lose water by osmosis and they become "flaccid." This is the exact opposite of "turgid". The contents of the potato cells shrinks and pulls away from the cell wall. These cells are said to be plasmolysed.

When plant cells are placed in a solution which has exactly the same osmotic strength as the cells they are in a state between turgidity and flaccidity. We call this incipient plasmolysis. "Incipient" means "about to be".


To create a fair test certain aspects of the experiment will have to be kept the same whilst one key variable is changed. I have chosen to vary the concentration of the sugar solution. This will give me a vary varied set of results from which I hope to make a decent conclusion. If any of the non-variables below are not kept constant it would mean it would not be a fair test. For instance if one of the potato chips was 1cm longer the surface area of the chip would be larger and there would therefore be more space for osmosis to occur. Doing all the tests at one temperature will control the temperature.  For the purpose of my experiment I am going to do all the experiments at room temperature.  To keep the water potential of the potato initially will be kept the same by using...
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