Active vs. Passive Transport: 18 Differences, Examples

Active and passive transport are the two main biological process which plays an important role in supplying nutrients, water, oxygen, and other essential molecules to cells and also by removing waste products.

  • Both active and passive transport works for the same cause, but with different movement.
  • Active transport requires chemical energy because it is the movement of biochemicals from areas of lower concentration to areas of higher concentration.
  • On the other hand, passive transport moves biochemicals from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration; so it does not require energy.
Difference between active transport and passive transport

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Key differences (active transport vs passive transport)

S.N.CharacterActive TransportPassive Transport
1.DefinitionThe movement of molecules across the cell membrane, pumping the molecules against the concentration gradient using ATP (energy) is called Active transport.The movement of molecules within and across the cell membrane and thus transporting it through the concentration gradient, without using ATP (energy) is called Passive transport.
2.Energy requirementEnergy is required which is in the form of ATP.No energy is required.
3.Concentration GradientThe movement of molecules is from low concentration to high concentration which means they move against the concentration gradient.The movement of molecules is from high concentration to low concentration, which means they move along the concentration gradient.
4.Direction of movementWith the use of ATP, it pumps the molecules upwards.In this, the molecules are moved downwards.
5.Carrier Protein or PumpsActive transport requires carrier proteins.In passive transport carrier proteins are not involved. However, in facilitated diffusion certain channels are present which utilize no energy.
6.Involvement of matrix or permeasesMatrix or permeases of the membrane are not involved.It takes place through matrix/channels/permeases.
7.Efficiency of the ProcessIt is a rapid process.It is comparatively a slow process.
8.Principle of WorkingActive transport allows molecules to pass the cell membrane, disrupting the equilibrium established by the diffusion.A dynamic equilibrium of water, nutrients, gasses, and wastes is maintained by passive transport


Between cytosol and extracellular environment.

9.DirectionalityOccurs in one direction.Bidirectional process.
10.Process typeActive transport is a vital process.Passive Transport is a physical process.
11.SelectivityIt is highly selective.It is partly non-selective
12.Effect of TemperatureAffected by temperature.Not affected by temperature.
13.Effect of Oxygen LevelThis process reduces or stops as the level of oxygen content is reduced.This process is not affected by the oxygen content.
14.Effect of metabolic inhibitorsMetabolic inhibitors stop the active transport.Metabolic inhibitors do not influence passive transport.
15.Molecules TransportedMacromolecules like proteins, carbohydrate (sugars), lipids, large cell are few of the materials which are transported by this way.Oxygen, monosaccharides, water, carbon dioxide, lipids are the few soluble materials which are being transported through this way.
16.TypesActive transport is classified into two categories, like primary active transport and secondary active transport.


Endocytosis, cell membrane/sodium-potassium pump & exocytosis

Passive transport is classified into four categories like osmosis, diffusion, facilitated diffusion, and filtration.
17.FunctionsThough the function of both types of transport is to carry ions and molecules, separately active transport is used to carry through the cell membrane.It is used to maintain the equilibrium, within and outside the cell of nutrients, water and gases, etc.
18.ExamplesExamples of active transport include a sodium pump, glucose selection in the intestines, and the uptake of mineral ions by plant roots.Passive transport occurs in the kidneys and the liver, and in the alveoli of the lungs when they exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.



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Sagar Aryal

Sagar Aryal is a microbiologist and a scientific blogger. He is doing his Ph.D. at the Central Department of Microbiology, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He was awarded the DAAD Research Grant to conduct part of his Ph.D. research work for two years (2019-2021) at Helmholtz-Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS), Saarbrucken, Germany. Sagar is interested in research on actinobacteria, myxobacteria, and natural products. He is the Research Head of the Department of Natural Products, Kathmandu Research Institute for Biological Sciences (KRIBS), Lalitpur, Nepal. Sagar has more than ten years of experience in blogging, content writing, and SEO. Sagar was awarded the SfAM Communications Award 2015: Professional Communicator Category from the Society for Applied Microbiology (Now: Applied Microbiology International), Cambridge, United Kingdom (UK). Sagar is also the ASM Young Ambassador to Nepal for the American Society for Microbiology since 2023 onwards.

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