Membrane Permeability with Beets

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In this lab exercise, learners explore diffusion, cell membranes and particle size using beets and three alcohols. Generally, learners predict that smaller alcohols will permeate more quickly, and that higher concentrations will permeate more quickly than lower concentrations. As learners collect data, they will discover that their assumptions were wrong and begin to think critically about the nature of the composition of the membrane. This lesson guide includes data analysis questions for learners. The alcohols used in this lab are toxic and flammable; adult supervision and safety precautions recommended.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Data Analysis sheets
  • water-washed beet cubes
  • test tubes
  • Methyl alcohol (2M, 4M, 8M)
  • Ethyl alcohol (2M, 4M, 8M)
  • n-propyl alcohol (2M, 4M, 8M)
  • n-butyl alcohol (2M, 4M, 8M)


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
      • Rate
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Vavala, Phil