An interesting fact about plants: they eat light.
Plant’s use light as our bodies use food, converting it into carbohydrates, sugars and more in order to fuel their existence.
Animal and plant cells are relatively similar in makeup. Plant cells however contain a few extra cell organs, called organelles, in order to facilitate the conversion of light into a food source.
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These organelles are called chloroplasts. They are photo-reactive centers which contain chlorophyll, the main pigment along with carotenes and xanthophylls, used to absorb photons (particles of light).
Chlorophyll is most adept absorbing blue light, followed by red. Green spectrums are poorly absorbed and thus reflected, giving plant life a general greenish hue.
Each plant cell contains up to 100 chloroplasts, translating to approximately 8 million of these photo-sensitive organs per square centimeter of leaf, making it comparable to a living solar panel. Since all green parts of a plant contain chlorophyll, all these parts are capable of harvesting light although leaf tissue remains the most proficient at this process.
For basic photosynthesis, 3 components are needed: photons (light), carbon dioxide and water.
When carbon dioxide, water and light are present, photosynthesis produces carbohydrates for the plant and releases oxygen as a by-product. The basic equation for photosynthesis is as follows:
Basic, generalized photosynthesis is a two step process.
The first step involves water and light. When light hits a pigment of chlorophyll, the chlorophyll absorbs a light particle and loses an electron. This loose electron is used by other parts of the chloroplast to convert the absorbed photon into two forms of chemical energy, ATP and NADP.
It is also used to split water (two hydrogen ions plus one oxygen ion, H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen, stealing its hydrogen ions to later produce carbohydrate sugar and releasing the oxygen (which is of no use to the plant) into the atmosphere.
In the second step, a loose hydrogen ion bonds with the NADP to form NADPH. Carbon dioxide is absorbed through microscopic openings in a leaf called stomata and then captured by a plant enzyme called RuBisCo. The carbon dioxide is fixated in the plant cell using ATP and NADPH energy.
This cycle is called the Calvin cycle and produces carbohydrates and glucose for the plant to nourish itself as well as reserving some ATP and NADPH to form new RuBisCo and other plant molecules in order to repeat this process continually.
This is why it is so important to remember, your plants always needs two things: LIGHT and WATER. Without these very simple elements, your plant cannot produce food for itself and, in conjunction with poor environmental conditions, with eventually die.
The process of photosynthesis is simply amazing, the fact that a living organism can create food for itself through the consumption of light. What is even more amazing is that this reaction is responsible for nearly all oxygen present on earth. That means no plant life equals no oxygen which in turn equals no us!
We can thank our botanical based friends for keeping us alive by being good stewards of the earth and by respecting and promoting green spaces in our cities and homes. Just remember to water and provide an ample amount of light for your plants and you are sure to have a healthier, peaceful and oxygenated home.