How does Photosynthesis work?

How does Photosynthesis work?

PHOTOSYNTHESIS, process by which green plants and certain other organisms use the energy of light to convert dioxide and water into the simple sugar glucose. In so doing, photosynthesis provides the basic energy source for virtually all organisms. An extremely important byproduct of photosynthesis is oxygen, on which most organisms depend. Photosynthesis occurs in green plants, seaweeds, algae and certain bacteria. These organisms are veritable sugar factories, producing millions of new glucose molecules per second. Plants use much of this glucose, a carbohydrate, as an energy source to build leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds. They also convert glucose to cellulose, the structural material used in their cell walls. Most plants produce more glucose than they use, and store it in the form of starch and other carbohydrates in roots, stems, and leaves. The plants can then draw on these reserves for extra energy or building materials. Plant photosynthesis occurs in leaves and green stems within specialized cell structures called chloroplasts. One plant leaf is composed of tens of thousands of cells, and each cell contains 40 to 50 chloroplasts. The chloroplast, an oval-shaped structure, is divided by membranes into numerous disk-shaped compartments. These disklike compartments, called thylakoids, are arranged vertically in the chloroplast like a stack of plates or pancakes. A stack of thylakoids is called a granum (plural, grana); the grana lie suspended in a fluid known as stroma. Embedded in the membranes of the thylakoids are hundreds of molecules of chlorophyll, a light-trapping pigment required for photosynthesis. Additional light-traping pigments, enzymes (organic substances that speed up chemical reactions), and other molecules needed for photosynthesis are also located within the thylakoins membranes. The pigments and enzymes are arranged in two types of units, Photosystem 1 and photosystem 2. Photosynthesis is a very complex process, and for the sake of convenience and ease of understanding, plant biologists divide it into two stages. In the first stage, the light-dependent reaction, the chloroplast traps light energy and converts it into two stages. In the first stage, the light-dependent reaction, the chloroplast traps light energy and converts it into chemical energy contained in nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), two molecules used in the second stage of photosynthesis. In the second stage of photosynthesis. In the second stage, called the light-independent reaction (formerly called the dark reaction) NADPH provides the hydrogen atoms that help from glucose. These two stages reflect the literal meaning of the term photosysthesis, to build with light. Light contains many colors, each with a defined range of wavelengths measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. certain red and blue wavelengths of light are the most effective in photosynthesis because they have exactly the right amount of energy to energize, or excite, chlorophyll electrons and boost them out of their orbits to higher energy level. Other pigments, called accessory pigments, enhance the light-absorption capacity of the leaf by capturing a broader spectrum of blue and red wavelengths, along with yellow and orange wavelengths. None of the photosynthetic pigments absorb green light; as a result, green wavelengths are reflected, which is why plants appear green. The transfer of electrons in a step-by-step fashion in photosystems 1 and 2 releases energy and heat slowly, thus protecting the chloroplast and cell from a harmful temperature increase. It also provides time for the plant to from NADPH and ATP. In the words of  American biochemist and Nobel laureate Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, ” What drives life is thus a little electric current, set up by the sunshine.” The chemical energy required for the light-independent reaction is supplied by the ATP and NADPH molecules produced in the light-dependent reaction. The light-independent reaction is cyclic, that is, it begins with a molecule that must be regenerated at the end of the reaction in order for the process to continue. Termed the Calvin cycle after the American chemist Melvin Calvin who discovered it, the light-independent reactions use the electrons and hydrogen ions associated with NADPH and the phosphorus associated with ATP to produce glucose. These reactions occur in the stroma, the fluid in the chloroplast surrounding the thylakoids, and each step is controlled by a different enzyme. The light-independent reaction requires the presence of carbon dioxide molecules, which enter the plant through pores in the leaf, diffuse through the cell to the chloroplast, and disperse in the stroma. The light-independent reaction begins in the stroma when these carbon dioxide molecules link to suger molecules called ribulose bisphosphate (RuBP) in a process known as carbon fixation. Ok while it may seem that we understand photosynthesis in detail, decades of experiments have given us only a partial understanding of this important process.

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