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Light-dependent reactions ; Z scheme, Water photolysis

What is Photosynthesis

By Science and Technology Concepts Middle School

When you get hungry, you grab a snack from your fridge or pantry. But what can plants do when they get hungry? You are probably aware that plants need sunlight, water, and a home (like soil) to grow, but where do they get their food? They make it themselves!

Plants are called autotrophs because they can use energy from light to synthesize, or make, their own food source. Many people believe they are “feeding” a plant when they put it in soil, water it, or place it outside in the Sun, but none of these things are considered food. Rather, plants use sunlight, water, and the gases in the air to make glucose, which is a form of sugar that plants need to survive. This process is called photosynthesis and is performed by all plants, algae, and even some microorganisms. To perform photosynthesis, plants need three things: carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight.

Infographic showing photosynthesis

By taking in water (H2O) through the roots, carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, and light energy from the Sun, plants can perform photosynthesis to make glucose (sugars) and oxygen (O2). CREDIT: mapichai/Shutterstock.com 

Just like you, plants need to take in gases in order to live. Animals take in gases through a process called respiration. During the respiration process, animals inhale all of the gases in the atmosphere, but the only gas that is retained and not immediately exhaled is oxygen. Plants, however, take in and use carbon dioxide gas for photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide enters through tiny holes in a plant’s leaves, flowers, branches, stems, and roots. Plants also require water to make their food. Depending on the environment, a plant’s access to water will vary. For example, desert plants, like a cactus, have less available water than a lilypad in a pond, but every photosynthetic organism has some sort of adaptation, or special structure, designed to collect water. For most plants, roots are responsible for absorbing water.