Photosynthesis: It brings good things to life.

The process in plants and algae that allows them to produce their own food sources and continually regenerate oxygen in the environment is called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis nourishes almost all of the living world directly or indirectly, as the path of the food chain is traced from plants up through animals. Photosynthesis, comes from two words, photo meaning ''light'' and synthesis meaning "to make". Photosynthesis evolved billions of years ago as a way for the first living cells to make their own nutrition from commonly occuring natural elements of air, water and light.

Photosynthesis is a two part process, the light and dark reactions. The conversion of light, air and water into nutrition and oxygen is represented by the following the chemical equation:

6CO2 + 12 H2O + light energy -> C6H12O6 + 6O2 +6H2O

This reaction begins with carbon dioxide taken from the air and water absorbed from the soil. Within the plant, special structures called chloroplasts contain sunlight-absorbing pigments. The energy converted by these pigments from certain wavelenghts of sunlight powers the conversion of air and water to oxygen, which is released to the environment, and to a sugar called glucose, which is an excellent storage molecule for energy.

There is also a process that occurs in many plants known as photorespiration, that limits their growth rates. There are two important adaptations to minimize this process called C4 photosynthesis and CAM.

Meet the Photosynthesis Web Team.