Photosynthesis is the process by which plants, some bacteria, and some protistans use the energy from sunlight to produce sugar, which cellular respiration converts into ATP, the “fuel” used by all living things. The conversion of unusable sunlight energy (solar energy) into usable chemical energy, is associated with the actions of the green pigment chlorophyll. Most of the time, the photosynthetic process uses water and releases the oxygen .We can write the overall reaction of this process as :
The above chemical equation translates as: Six molecules of water plus six molecules of carbon dioxide produce one molecule of sugar plus six molecules of oxygen.
STRUCTURE OF LEAF
- Plants are the only photosynthetic organisms to have leaves (and not all plants have leaves).Aleaf may be viewed as a solar collector crammed full of photosynthetic cells.
- The raw materials of photosynthesis, water and carbon dioxide, enter the cells of the leaf, and the products of photosynthesis, sugar and oxygen, leave the leaf.
- Water enters the root and is transported up to the leaves through specialized plant cells known as xylem.
- Land plants must guard against drying out (desiccation) and so have evolved specialized structures known as stomata to allow gas to enter and leave the leaf. Carbon dioxide cannot pass through the protective waxy layer covering the leaf (cuticle), but it can enter the leaf through an opening (the stoma; plural = stomata; Greek for hole) flanked by two guard cells.
- Likewise, oxygen produced during photosynthesis can only pass out of the leaf through the opened stomata.
- Unfortunately for the plant, while these gases are moving between the inside and outside of the leaf, a great deal water is also lost.
- Cottonwood trees, for example, will lose 100 gallons of water per hour during hot desert days. Carbon dioxide enters single-celled and aquatic autotrophs through no specialized structures.
CHLOROPHYLL AND ACCESSORY PIGMENTS
- A pigment is any substance that absorbs light. The color of the pigment comes from the wavelengths of light reflected (in other words, those not absorbed).
- Chlorophyll, the green pigment common to all photosynthetic cells, absorbs all wavelengths of visible light except green, which it reflects to be detected by our eyes.
- Black pigments absorb all of the wavelengths that strike them.
- White pigments/lighter colors reflect all or almost all of the energy striking them. Pigments have their own characteristic absorption spectra, the absorption pattern of a given pigment.
Chlorophyll is a complex molecule. Several modifications of chlorophyll occur among plants and other photosynthetic organisms. All photosynthetic organisms (plants, certain protistans, prochlorobacteria, and cyanobacteria) have chlorophyll a. Accessory pigments absorb energy that chlorophyll a does not absorb. Accessory pigments include chlorophyll b (also c, d, and e in algae and protistans), xanthophylls, and carotenoids (such as beta-carotene). Chlorophyll absorbs its energy from the Violet- Blue and Reddish orange-Red wavelengths, and little fromthe intermediate (Green-Yellow-Orange) wavelengths.
STAGES OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS
- Photosynthesis is a two stage process.
The first process is the Light Dependent Process (Light Reactions), requires the direct energy of light to make energy carrier molecules that are used in the second process. The Light Independent Process (or Dark Reactions) occurs when the products of the Light Reaction are used to form C-C covalent bonds of carbohydrates. The Dark Reactions can usually occur in the dark, if the energy carriers from the light process are present. Recent evidence suggests that a major enzyme of the Dark Reaction is indirectly stimulated by light, thus the term Dark Reaction is somewhat of a misnomer. The Light Reactions occur in the grana and the Dark Reactions take place in the stroma of the chloroplasts.
THE CARBON CYCLE
Plants may be viewed as carbon sinks, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and oceans by fixing it into organic chemicals. Plants also produce some carbon dioxide by their respiration, but this is quickly used by photosynthesis. Plants also convert energy from light into chemical energy of C-C covalent bonds.Animals are carbon dioxide producers that derive their energy from carbohydrates and other chemicals produced by plants by the process of photosynthesis.
The balance between the plant carbon dioxide removal and animal carbon dioxide generation is equalized also by the formation of carbonates in the oceans. This removes excess carbon dioxide from the air and water (both of which are in equilibriumwith regard to carbon dioxide). Fossil fuels, such as petroleumand coal, as well as more recent fuels such as peat and wood generate carbon dioxide when burned. Fossil fuels are formed ultimately by organic processes, and represent also a tremendous carbon sink. Human activity has greatly increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in air.