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Facts about Photosynthesis For Kids


Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms’ activities. Although photosynthesis is performed differently by different species, the process always begins when energy from light is absorbed by proteins called reaction centers that contain green chlorophyll pigments.

  • In plants, these proteins are held inside organelles called chloroplasts, which are most abundant in leaf cells, while in bacteria they are embedded in the plasma membrane.
  • In these light-dependent reactions, some energy is used to strip electrons from suitable substances, such as water, producing oxygen gas.
  • Furthermore, two further compounds are generated: reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the “energy currency” of cells.
  • In plants, algae and cyanobacteria, sugars are produced by a subsequent sequence of light-independent reactions called the Calvin cycle, but some bacteria use different mechanisms, such as the reverse Krebs cycle.
  • In the Calvin cycle, atmospheric carbon dioxide is incorporated into already existing organic carbon compounds, such as ribulose bisphosphate (RuBP).
  • Photosynthetic organisms are photoautotrophs, which means that they are able to synthesize food directly from carbon dioxide and water using energy from light.
  • However, not all organisms that use light as a source of energy carry out photosynthesis, since photoheterotrophs use organic compounds, rather than carbon dioxide, as a source of carbon.
  • Carbon fixation is an endothermic redox reaction, so photosynthesis needs to supply both a source of energy to drive this process, and the electrons needed to convert carbon dioxide into a carbohydrate.
  • The general equation for photosynthesis as first proposed by Cornelius van Niel is therefore: Since water is used as the electron donor in oxygenic photosynthesis, the equation for this process is: This equation emphasizes that water is both a reactant (in the light-dependent reaction) and a product (in the light-independent reaction), but canceling n water molecules from each side gives the net equation: Other processes substitute other compounds for water in the electron-supply role; for example some microbes use sunlight to oxidize arsenite to arsenate: The equation for this reaction is: Photosynthesis occurs in two stages.
  • Actual plants’ photosynthetic efficiency varies with the frequency of the light being converted, light intensity, temperature and proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and can vary from 0.1% to 8%.