Osmotic potential is the opposite of water potential with the former meaning the degree to which a solvent (usually water) would want to stay in a liquid.
When a biological cell is in a hypotonic environment (the cell interior contains a lower concentration of water and a higher concentration of other molecules than its exterior), water flows across the cell membrane into the cell, causing it to expand due to osmotic pressure. In plant cells, the cell wall restricts the expansion, resulting in pressure on the cell wall from within called turgor pressure. The osmotic pressure π of a dilute solution can be calculated using the formula
- i is the van 't Hoff factor
- M is the molarity
- R is the gas constant, where R = 0.08206 L · atm · mol-1 · K-1
- T is the thermodynamic temperature (formerly called absolute temperature)
Note the similarity of the above formula to the ideal gas law and also that osmotic pressure is not dependent on particle charge.
Osmotic pressure is the basis of reverse osmosis, a process commonly used to purify water. The water to be purified is placed in a chamber and put under an amount of pressure greater than the osmotic pressure exerted by the water and the solutes dissolved in it. Part of the chamber opens to a differentially permeable membrane that lets water molecules through, but not the solute particles. The osmotic pressure of ocean water is about 27 atm. Reverse osmosis desalinators use pressures around 50 atm to produce fresh water from ocean salt water.
Osmotic pressure is necessary for many plant functions. It is the resulting turgor pressure on the cell wall that allows herbaceous plants to stand upright, and how plants regulate the aperture of their stomata. In animal cells which lack a cell wall however, excessive osmotic pressure can result in cytolysis.
- Cell wall
- Gibbs-Donnan effect
- Pfeffer cell
- Potential osmotic pressure
- Turgor pressure
For the calculation of molecular weight by using colligative properties, osmotic pressure is the most preferred property
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