Fundamentals of Materials Science: Diffusion

Weal, E. (Emily) ; Chapman, J. (Jenny) ; Rutter, N. (Noel)

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Diffusion is the process by which mass flows from one place to another on an atomic, ionic molecular level. It can also apply to the flow of heat within bodies. We are, perhaps, familiar with the idea of mass transportation within liquids and gases by convection. Atomic motion in fluids is rarely due to diffusion, as convection currents often produce a much greater effect, and are very difficult to avoid. Therefore this TLP will discuss diffusion in solids, and will refer mainly to atomic motion, although in practice ionic motion is common. When dealing with a solid, diffusion can be thought of as the movement of atoms within the atomic network, by “jumping” from one atomic site. In order for there to be a net flow of atoms from one place to another there must be a driving force; if no driving force exists, atoms will still diffuse, but the overall movement of atoms will be zero, as the flux of atoms will be the same in every direction. We will study this in more detail in the next few sections of this TLP.

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University of Cambridge

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