What is Imbibition?

Imbibition is a type of diffusion where the water is absorbed by the solid particles called colloids, without forming a solution causing an enormous increase in volume. To define, the absorption of water by hydrophilic colloids is known as imbibition.


Various factors of imbibition include pressure, pH of a medium, pressure, texture of a imbibant and the affinity of the imbibant for the imbibate.

The solid substance or adsorbent which take part in imbibition are called imbibants and the liquid is imbibed is known as imbibate. For example, the absorbed of water by seed or dry wood.

Capacity of imbibing will differ in different imbibants. For instance consider proteins, since it is a hydrophilic collides it will have maximum imbibing capacity. Compared to this, starch has less capacity and cellulose with least capacity.

Imbibition Pressure

This pressure can be of tremendous magnitude and can be demonstrated by a technique that is used by early Egyptians. That is split a rock and insert a wooden stalks that is completely dry in the crevices of the rocks and soak them in water, a It was used to cleave stone blocks.

Different types of organic substances have different imbibing capacities. Proteins have a very high imbibing capacity than starch less and cellulose least. That is why proteinaceous pea seeds swell more on imbibition than starchy wheat seeds.

Condition Necessary for Imbibition:

There are three conditions that are necessary for imbibition:

  • A water potential gradient should occur between imbibant and liquid imbibe.
  • There should be some force of attraction between imbibant and imbibed liquid.
  • Increase in temperature brings about an increased imbibition.

Features of Imbibition

  • Adsorption
  • Water Potential
  • Water Potential Gradient
  • Heat of Wetting
  • Increase in Volume

Imbibition In Plants

  • Imbibition is the first step in the absorption of water by the roots and cells.
  • Imbibition of water by cell walls helps to keep the cells moist.
  • Imbibition pressure is helpful in seed germination, growth of seedling through the soil, ascent of sap in plants, etc.

Difference Between Imbibition and Diffusion

Imbibition Diffusion
It refers to the absorption of water by general surface. It refers to the movement of molecules, ions of solids, liquids or gases from the region of higher concentration to lower concentration
It takes place both in living and dead cells. It takes place in solids, liquids and gases.
It is a reversible process. It is not a reversible process.
An absorbent is involved but no there is membrane. No need of semi-permeable membrane.

Practise This Question

___________ study the atmosphere and record the weather conditions everyday.