What is photosynthesis?

What is photosynthesis? Photosynthesis is the biochemical process by which plants convert inorganic matter (carbon dioxide) into organic matter (sugars), taking advantage of the energy from sunlight. 

What is photosynthesis? 

Photosynthesis is the biochemical process by which plants convert inorganic matter (carbon dioxide) into organic matter (sugars), taking advantage of the energy from sunlight. 

This is the main nutrition mechanism not only for plants, both aquatic and terrestrial, but also for other autotrophic organisms that have chlorophyll (an essential pigment for the photosynthetic process), such as algae and some groups of bacteria.

Photosynthesis is one of the most important biochemical mechanisms on the planet since it involves the manufacture of organic nutrients that store light energy from the Sun in different useful molecules (carbohydrates). In fact, the name of this process comes from the Greek words photo, "light", and synthesis, "composition".

Subsequently, the synthesized organic molecules can be used as a source of chemical energy to sustain vital processes, such as cellular respiration and other reactions that are part of the metabolism of living beings.

To carry out photosynthesis, the presence of chlorophyll is required, a pigment that is sensitive to sunlight, the same that gives plants and algae their characteristic green coloration. 

This pigment is found in chloroplasts, cellular organelles of various sizes that are typical of plant cells, especially foliar (leaf) cells. Chloroplasts contain a set of proteins and enzymes that allow the development of complex reactions that are part of the photosynthetic process.

Two types of photosynthesis can be distinguished, depending on the substances used by the body to carry out the reaction:

Oxygenic photosynthesis. It is characterized by the use of water (H 2 O) to reduce the carbon dioxide (CO2) consumed. In this type of photosynthesis, not only are useful sugars produced for the body, but oxygen (O2) is also obtained as a product of the reaction. Plants, algae, and cyanobacteria carry out oxygenic photosynthesis.

Anoxygenic photosynthesis. The body does not use water to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2), but uses sunlight to break down molecules of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or hydrogen gas (H2). 

This type of photosynthesis does not produce oxygen (O2) and instead releases sulfur as a reaction product. Anoxygenic photosynthesis is carried out by the so-called green and purple sulfur bacteria, which contain a different chlorophyll than plants.

The photosynthesis process is fundamental for the ecosystem and for life as we know it, since it allows the creation and circulation of organic matter and the fixation of inorganic matter. In addition, during oxygenic photosynthesis, the oxygen that most living beings need for their respiration is produced .

Photosynthesis characteristics

Chloroplasts - plant cell

In plants and algae, photosynthesis takes place in organelles called chloroplasts.

Broadly speaking, photosynthesis is characterized by the following:

It is a biochemical process of taking advantage of sunlight to obtain organic materials, that is, the synthesis of nutrients from inorganic elements such as water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

It can be carried out by various autotrophic organisms, as long as they have photosynthetic pigments, the most important being chlorophyll. 

Photosynthesis is the process of nutrition in plants (both terrestrial and aquatic), algae, phytoplankton and some groups of Only a few animals are capable of photosynthesis, including the sea slug Elysia chlorotica and the spotted salamander Ambystoma maculatum (the latter does so thanks to the symbiosis with an alga).

In plants and algae, photosynthesis takes place in specialized organelles called chloroplasts, in which chlorophyll is found. Photosynthetic bacteria also possess chlorophyll (or other analogous pigments), but they do not have chloroplasts (as they are).

There are two types of photosynthesis, depending on the substance used to fix the carbon from carbon dioxide (CO2). Oxygenic photosynthesis uses water (H 2 O) and produces oxygen (O 2 ), which is released to the surrounding environment. On the other hand, anoxygenic photosynthesis uses hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or hydrogen gas (H2), and does not produce oxygen but instead releases sulfur.

Since Ancient Greece, the relationship between sunlight and plants was already postulated. However, advances in the study and understanding of photosynthesis began to gain importance thanks to the contributions of a successive set of scientists from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. 

For example, the first to demonstrate the generation of oxygen in plants was the English clergyman Joseph Priestley (1732-1804) and the first to formulate the basic equation of photosynthesis was the German botanist Ferdinand Sachs (1832-1897). Later, the North American biochemist Melvin Calvin (1911-1997), made another enormous contribution, clarifying the Calvin cycle (one of the phases of photosynthesis), which earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1961.

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