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Surface Area to Volume Ratio Practical

To demonstrate the effect of surface area to volume ratio on rate of diffusion.


Background information
There is a size limitation for cells. This is because the surface area to volume ratio is not proportional
as it increases. The ratio is significant for cells as the surface area is crucial in providing the cell with
nutrients and oxygen. The total chemical reactions (cell metabolism) depend on the movement of
substances in and out of the cell. These can enter by diffusion or by active transport. Cells need to be
able to diffuse nutrients and oxygen in quickly and diffuse waste out of the cell quickly. Today we will
be using cube shaped models to investigate how the cell's surface area and volume affects its ability
to diffuse nutrients, oxygen, and waste.
Equipment and Materials:

2 beakers Potato Scalpel

Ruler Iodine solution Forceps

Dissecting tray Stop watch Measuring cylinder

Risk Assessment:

Potnetial Risks (What could happen and from Precautions (How will you avoid the potential
what?) risk from occurring)

Aim: To model/investigate: the change in the surface area to volume ratio with cell size and the
effect of a change in the surface area to volume ratio on the rate of diffusion.
Hypothesis: A hypothesis must be stated in a way that makes it testable. The hypothesis is just a
possible answer to a question.

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Method:
1. Cut the potato into cubes (starting from biggest to smallest sizes) with the measurements below.
Cube 1: 2cm
Cube 2: 1cm
Cube 3: 0.5cm
2. Place all the cubes into one beaker and add enough iodine solution to cover them all.
3. Allow the cubes to soak for 5 minutes. During this time, you should begin to calculate the surface
area, volume and ratio in the table below.

Surface Area (SA) of Volume (cm) Ratio = SA / Volume


Cube (cm)
Cube 1 (2cm)
Cube 2 (1cm)
Cube 3 (0.5cm)
5. After the 5 minutes, prepare a beaker that has 2/3 of water. Remove the potatoes from the beaker
with the iodine solution and place them into the beaker with water.
6. Remove the potatoes from the beaker and place them onto a dissecting tray.
7. Cut the cubes in half and examine the cross-section. Use a ruler and record the results in the table
below.

Length of One Side of Cube (cm) Penetration Depth of Iodine Solution (cm)
2
1
0.5
5. Use a ruler and make a sketch of the cross-section, clearly showing the penetration of the iodine
solution. Draw the actual size of the square and shade in the area that has been stained.
For example,
0
.
1
c
m

3
Results:
c
Cross-sections of Potato Cubes (Make sure to use a ruler and sharp pencil)
m
Tabulate your final results:

Cube Size Total Surface Total Total SA: V Depth of SA:V % left
(l) cm area SA (6 x Volume V penetratio uncoloure uncoloured
l)cm (l)cm n (y)mm d

0.5

Discussion:
1. Identify the independent variable(s): ________________________________________
2. Identify the dependent variable(s): __________________________________________
3. Describe your results and your observations:
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4. Assess the accuracy of your measurements and calculations and their relative significance to
this
practical:_____________________________________________________________________
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5. Describe the evidence that indicates that diffusion in the cube has occurred:
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6. When a cell divides, it produces two identical cells that at first, are half the size of the original
cell. Describe the change to the:
a. Total surface area: __________________________________________________
b. Total volume: ______________________________________________________
c. Surface area to volume ratio for each cell:
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7. These cells will then grow, but to a limited size. Determine the significance of the results of
this investigation for multicellular living organisms.
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8. Discuss the limitations of the potatoes representing cells (hint: think about cell structure):
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9. Evaluate the validity of this experiment:
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10. Evaluate the reliability of this experiment:
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Conclusion: A brief paragraph answering your aim (whether it was achieved), was your hypothesis
right or wrong? Summarise your observations and main point/ findings.
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Extension Questions:
1. Construct a graph of SA:V against extent of diffusion for each cube.
2. Which has the greatest surface area, a 2 cm side-length cube, or an onion cell?
3. What happens to the SA:V as a cell grows larger?
4. What evidence is there that iodine diffused into the potato?
5. Explain what you think would be a good shape for an organisms that absorbs its nutrient
through its external surface.
6. Based on the limitations of this model, provide suggestions to improve the validity of this
model?
7. Name biological examples of increased cell surface area.