Photosynthesis: Capturing Sunlight to Make Sugar and Oxygen

A Photosynthesis Equation Explained

Photosynthesis is a process by which plants and some bacteria convert carbon dioxide, water, and energy from light into sugar (glucose) and oxygen. The first step, known as the light reactions or photochemical reactions, energizes electrons and creates a proton gradient.

These reactions require the green pigment CHLOROPHYLL, which likes to absorb blue, violet, orange, and red frequencies of light and tends to reflect yellows and greens.

The Reactants

Six molecules of carbon dioxide and six molecules of water react with light energy to produce one molecule of glucose and six molecules of oxygen. This balanced chemical equation, known as the photosynthesis equation, illustrates the overall process of how plants and some bacteria produce sugar from carbon dioxide and water.

This reaction, called photosynthesis, gives plants the energy they need to live. It also removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replaces it with life-sustaining oxygen.

Photosynthesis is a two-stage process, with the first stage referred to as the “light reactions” and the second phase being called the Calvin cycle. During the light reactions, thylakoid membranes in chloroplasts convert light energy into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and NADPH.

All chemical reactions must be balanced, so there must be equal numbers of atoms on the reactant side and the products side. This is how the photosynthesis equation demonstrates the law of conservation of mass. In this video we’ll take a closer look at the reactants and products in this important biological reaction.

The Products

The products of photosynthesis are a sugar molecule called glucose and oxygen gas. Glucose is used to provide energy for plant cells and is also a raw material in the formation of organic compounds such as cellulose, amino acids, proteins, lipids and other biomolecules.

The balanced equation for photosynthesis shows that six molecules of carbon dioxide and twelve molecules of water are converted by sunlight and chlorophyll into one molecule of glucose and six molecules of oxygen. In addition, the energy of sunlight is transferred to a high-energy molecule called ATP that provides the chemical energy needed to drive all other biochemical reactions of the photosynthesis process.

Photosynthesis is essential for plants, algae and species of bacteria that produce their own food. It is also helpful for the animal species that rely on plants and other photosynthetic organisms for their food supply. Oxygen released as a bi product of photosynthesis is necessary for all animals to carry out cellular respiration.

The Process

Plants (and algae, cyanobacteria, and some bacteria) use sunlight to create food. This process is called photosynthesis, & it turns carbon dioxide & water into glucose & oxygen. It also produces adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

The synthesis of glucose is divided into two steps: the light reactions & the dark reactions. The light reactions are also called the photosynthetic or photochemical reactions, & they occur in structures inside the plant cell called chloroplasts.

Light energy is absorbed by green pigments called chlorophyll a & chlorophyll b. These molecules absorb blue, violet, orange, & red wavelengths of light, & reflect yellow & green wavelengths. This explains why plants look so green!

The absorbing of light energy by these molecules energizes electrons, which are then shuttled through an electron transport chain. This process generates a proton gradient across the thylakoid membrane. The energy from this gradient is used to form ATP from ADP & inorganic phosphate. This ATP is then used to reduce carbon dioxide in the next step, which is known as carbon fixation.

The Energy

Most of the energy that powers life on Earth is captured and converted through photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is a complex process used by plants and some bacteria to harness the energy of sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide to produce sugar (glucose) and oxygen. It is a photosynthetic process, named after the Greek words for “light” and “synthesis,” which mean “putting together or to make.”

There are two sequential stages of photosynthesis: the light-dependent reactions and the light independent reactions (also known as the Calvin cycle). During the light-dependent reactions, the energy from sunlight is used by chlorophyll to drive a series of electron transfers that produce ATP and reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH).

The ATP and NADPH produced during the light-dependent reactions are then used to reduce carbon dioxide to organic carbon molecules, most notably glucose. This step is known as carbon fixation and is a critical part of the process. Without it, the Earth would quickly deplete of gases like carbon dioxide and oxygen that are needed for all living organisms to survive.

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