The formula for photosynthesis is 6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy = C6H12O6 + 6O2. In words, the equation translates to the combining of water, carbon dioxide and light energy to produce glucose and oxygen.
Photosynthesis is a complex natural process that takes place when plants convert sunlight into energy. In addition to taking place in all plant species, photosynthesis is carried out by some algae and bacteria. The energy produced by photosynthesis is a type of chemical energy that is then used to fuel basic life functions such as growth and reproduction.
The Process of Photosynthesis
To perform photosynthesis, plants require three elements. In addition to sunlight, they need carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis involves multiple chemical reactions that happen in a series, so that the end result of one chemical reaction supports the next reaction. The process begins when plants absorb water, usually through their roots. Next, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Sunlight is absorbed in the final stage of photosynthesis. Depending on the type of plant and the environment in which they live, plants have slightly different adaptations for carrying out photosynthesis. While most plants absorb water through their roots, root systems vary in species that live in different physical settings. Plants that live in the desert, for instance, have a special root structure to absorb water. Other plants, like lily pads, have unique structures to help collect water. Plants can absorb carbon dioxide from pores in their roots, flowers, leaves, branches and stems. The last stage in the photosynthesis process involves taking in sunlight. As plants absorb sunlight, a chemical reaction takes place where molecules of carbon dioxide and water are broken down. This creates carbohydrates, or glucose, which is sugar that the plants can store and use later for energy. The other end product of this phase is oxygen, which plants release back into the atmosphere.
Benefits of Photosynthesis
In addition to helping plants, photosynthesis is one of the most important biological functions on the planet. It affects life on Earth and even many facets of society. Since humans and other animals cannot make their own food, they rely on photosynthesis to sustain plants, which in turn provide sustenance for other organisms in the food chain. Photosynthesis also produces oxygen as a byproduct, which is essential for human life and the life of many other organisms. As they take in carbon dioxide, plants also ingest other gases in the atmosphere, including pollutants. The only gas that they release, however, is oxygen, which in turn means that they help to clean and purify the air. Plants and microorganisms also play a role in soil remediation, which involves using plants to capture and eliminate harmful toxins in the soil. Photosynthesis also enables the growth of critical food supplies and cash crops in countries around the world.
Plants also have a vital role in the fields of health and medicine. Many modern medicines are created from plants. Foxglove, for example, contains chemicals that are used to treat heart failure. Aloe alleviates symptoms of burns, and other medications combat headaches, certain types of cancer and other ailments.
Trees and plants can also reduce energy bills for homeowners, as the shade that they provide cools homes and can lower the cost of an energy bill.