What Is The Energy Capturing Stage Of Photosynthesis – Processes in all organisms—from bacteria to humans—require energy. To obtain this energy, many organisms access stored energy by feeding, that is, by ingesting other organisms. But where does the energy stored in food come from? All of this energy can be traced back to photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis is essential to all life on earth; both plants and animals depend on it. This is the only biological process that can capture energy coming from space (sunlight) and convert it into chemical compounds (carbohydrates) that every organism uses to power its metabolism. In short, sunlight energy is captured and used to energize electrons, which are then stored in the covalent bonds of sugar molecules. How long and stable is the covalent bond? The energy produced today through the burning of coal and petroleum products represents sunlight energy that was captured and stored through photosynthesis some 300 million years ago.
- 1 What Is The Energy Capturing Stage Of Photosynthesis
- 2 Solution: Photosynthesis In Higher Plants
What Is The Energy Capturing Stage Of Photosynthesis
Figure 1. Photoautotrophs including (a) plants, (b) algae, and (c) cyanobacteria synthesize their organic compounds through photosynthesis using sunlight as an energy source. Cyanobacteria and planktonic algae can grow over very large areas of water, sometimes covering the entire surface. In (d) deep sea vents, chemoautotrophic bacteria, such as (e) thermophilic bacteria, capture energy from inorganic compounds to produce organic compounds. The ecosystem around the vent has a variety of animals, such as tube worms, crustaceans and octopuses that obtain energy from bacteria. (credit a: modification of work by Steve Hillebrand, US Fish and Wildlife Service; credit b: modification of work “eutrophication&hypoxia”/Flickr; credit c: modification of work by NASA; credit d: University of Washington, NOAA; credit e: modification of work by Mark Amend, West Coast and Polar Region Undersea Research Center, UAF, NOAA)
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Figure 2. Energy stored in carbohydrate molecules from photosynthesis passes through the food chain. Predators that eat deer receive some of their energy from photosynthetic vegetation that the deer consume. (credit: modification of work by Steve VanRiper, US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Plants, algae, and a group of bacteria called cyanobacteria are the only organisms capable of photosynthesis (Figure 1). Because they use light to produce their own food, they are called photoautotrophs (literally “feeding themselves using light”). Other organisms, such as animals, fungi, and most bacteria, are called heterotrophs (“other feeders”), because they must rely on sugars produced by photosynthetic organisms for their energy needs. A third very interesting group of bacteria synthesize sugars, not by using the energy of sunlight, but by extracting energy from inorganic chemical compounds; therefore, they are called chemoautotrophs.
The importance of photosynthesis is not only being able to capture sunlight energy. Lizards that sunbathe on cold days can use solar energy to warm up. Photosynthesis is very important because it evolved as a way to store energy in solar radiation (the “photo” part) as high-energy electrons in the carbon-carbon bonds of carbohydrate molecules (the “synthesis” part). These carbohydrates are an energy source that heterotrophs use to drive ATP synthesis through respiration. Therefore, photosynthesis powers 99 percent of the Earth’s ecosystem. When an apex predator, such as a wolf, preys on deer (Figure 2), the wolf is at the end of an energy pathway that goes from nuclear reactions on the surface of the sun, to light, to photosynthesis, to plants, to deer, and finally to wolves.
Photosynthesis is a multi-step process that requires sunlight, carbon dioxide (which is low in energy), and water as substrates (Figure 3). Once the process is complete, it releases oxygen and produces glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (GA3P), a simple (high-energy) carbohydrate molecule that can then be converted into glucose, sucrose, or dozens of other sugar molecules. These sugar molecules contain energy and energetic carbon that all living things need to survive.
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Figure 3. Photosynthesis uses solar energy, carbon dioxide, and water to produce energy-storing carbohydrates. Oxygen is produced as a waste product of photosynthesis.
Figure 4. The basic equation of photosynthesis is deceptively simple. In reality, the process takes place in many steps involving reactants and intermediate products. Glucose, the main energy source in cells, is made from two three-carbon GA3P.
Although the equation seems simple, many of the steps that occur during photosynthesis are actually quite complicated. Before learning the details of how photoautotrophs convert sunlight into food, it is important to understand the structures involved.
In plants, photosynthesis generally occurs in leaves which consist of several layers of cells. The photosynthesis process occurs in the middle layer called the mesophyll. The exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen gases occurs through small regulated openings called stomata (singular: stoma), which also play a role in regulating gas exchange and water balance. Stomata are usually located on the underside of leaves, which helps minimize water loss. Each stoma is flanked by guard cells that regulate the opening and closing of the stomata by swelling or shrinking in response to osmotic changes.
The Carbon Story
In all autotrophic eukaryotes, photosynthesis occurs in organelles called chloroplasts. For plants, cells containing chloroplasts are in the mesophyll. Chloroplasts have a double membrane envelope (consisting of an outer membrane and an inner membrane). Inside the chloroplast there are stacks of disc-shaped structures called thylakoids. Embedded in the thylakoid membrane are chlorophyll, pigments (molecules that absorb light) that are responsible for the initial interaction between light and plant material, and a number of proteins that form the electron transport chain. The thylakoid membrane encloses an internal space called the thylakoid lumen. As shown in Figure 5, the stack of thylakoids is called the granum, and the fluid-filled space around the granum is called the stroma or “bed” (not to be confused with the stoma or “mouth”, which is the opening in the leaf epidermis).
Figure 5. Photosynthesis occurs in chloroplasts which have an outer membrane and an inner membrane. Stacks of thylakoids called grana form the third membrane layer.
On hot, dry days, plants close their stomata to conserve water. What impact does this have on photosynthesis?
Carbon dioxide levels (a necessary substrate for photosynthesis) will immediately drop. As a result, the rate of photosynthesis will be hampered.
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Photosynthesis takes place in two sequential stages: light-dependent reactions and light-independent reactions. In light-dependent reactions, energy from sunlight is absorbed by chlorophyll and the energy is converted into stored chemical energy. In light-independent reactions, the chemical energy obtained during light-dependent reactions drives the assembly of sugar molecules from carbon dioxide. Therefore, although light-independent reactions do not use light as a reactant, they require light-dependent reaction products in order to function. In addition, some light-independent reaction enzymes are activated by light. Light-dependent reactions utilize certain molecules to temporarily store energy: These are referred to as energy carriers. Energy carriers that transfer energy from light-dependent reactions to light-independent reactions can be considered “full” because they are rich in energy. Once the energy is released, the “empty” energy carriers return to light-dependent reactions to obtain more energy. Figure 6 illustrates the components within the chloroplast where light-dependent and light-independent reactions occur.
Figure 6. Photosynthesis takes place in two stages: light-dependent reactions and the Calvin cycle. The light-dependent reaction, which occurs in the thylakoid membrane, uses light energy to make ATP and NADPH. The Calvin cycle, which occurs in the stroma, uses the energy derived from this compound to make GA3P from CO
Large grocery stores in the United States are organized into departments, such as dairy, meat, produce, bread, cereal, and so on. Each aisle (Figure 7) contains hundreds, if not thousands, of different products for customers to purchase and consume.
While there are many variations, each item relates back to photosynthesis. The relationship between meat and milk is because animals are fed plant foods. Bread, cereal, and pasta mostly come from starchy grains, which are the seeds of plants that depend on photosynthesis. What about desserts and drinks? All of these products contain sugar—sucrose is a plant product, a disaccharide, a carbohydrate molecule, made directly from photosynthesis. In addition, many items have less obvious plant origins: for example, paper goods are generally plant products, and many plastics (which are abundant in products and packaging) can originate from algae or oils, the fossilized remains of photosynthetic organisms. Nearly every spice and flavoring in the spice aisle is produced by plants in the form of leaves, roots, bark, flowers, fruit, or stems. Ultimately, photosynthesis is related to every meal and every food a person consumes.
Solution: Photosynthesis In Higher Plants
How can light be used to make food? When someone turns on a light, electrical energy becomes light energy. Like all other forms of kinetic energy, light can travel, change shape, and be used to do work. In the case of photosynthesis, light energy is converted into chemical energy, which photoautotrophs use to build carbohydrate molecules. However, autotrophs only use certain components of sunlight.
The sun emits electromagnetic radiation (solar energy) in enormous amounts. Humans can only see a small portion of this energy, so this portion is referred to as “visible light.” How to use solar energy
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