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PHOTOSYNTHESIS THE CHEMICAL REACTION

This is learning by enquiry - research your answers. You may work as a group, but everyone needs to
compile a full set of answers.

Firstly a reminder about the basics of photosynthesis:
Q.1 a) What are the raw materials taken in by a photosynthesising green plant, in order to make its
own organic food?
The raw materials needed are water and carbon dioxide.
b) What else does the plant need from the environment in order to react the raw materials
together?
Sunlight
c) There must be a sort of biological catalyst present in order to enable the combining of the
raw materials. What is his substance?
Chlorophyll
d) The raw materials are reacted together to form which organic compound)
Glucose
e) Photosynthesis produces an important waste product what?
Oxygen
f) Now you should be able to write the word formula for the photosynthesis reaction the raw
materials (reactants or substrates) react together to form products.
Water + Carbon Dioxide Glucose + Oxygen
g) Finally, write the balanced chemical or molecular formula for photosynthesis.
6H2O + 6CO2 C6H12O6+ 602

Now lets look at the raw materials and resources and where they come from. Assume all the time that
we are taking about a rooted, leafy, green plant your answers might be a little different if we were
talking about algae in the oceans.

Q.2 CHLOROPHYLL
a) Green plants actually make their own chlorophyll. Chlorophyll contains one important
mineral ion, which must be absorbed from the soil. What is it?
Magnesium
b) Chlorophyll does not simply hang around inside plant cells, waiting for a bit of sun! The
chlorophyll is found inside tiny organelles in photosynthesising cells. It is inside these
organelles where most of the photosynthesis reaction occurs. What are these organelles
called? Make a simple drawing of one.
Chloroplasts:









c) Very briefly, what do you understand by: i) the light dependent reaction; The first
major set of processes in photosynthesis in which the light is converted into chemical energy.
ii) the light independent reaction? They are
chemical reactions which convert carbon dioxide and other compounds into glucose.

Q.3 CARBON DIOXIDE
a) About what percentage of the earths atmosphere is carbon dioxide?
0.04%
b) Is this percentage rising or falling? Why? What might the effect of the change be on the
rate of photosynthesis? (Be very brief with your answers here.)
The percentage is rising because of the increasing amount of cars and factories in the world.
c) Where in plant leaves does the carbon dioxide enter?
The carbon dioxide enters through the stomata (pores) underneath the leaves.
d) A green plant will not be absorbing carbon dioxide a full 24 hours a day. It will therefore
not be photosynthesising a full 24 hours. When will the plants not be absorbing carbon
dioxide?
At night time

Q.4 WATER
a) From where do green plants obtain their water?
The soil
b) So, which parts of the plants must the water travel through in order to reach the leaves,
where most of the photosynthesis takes places? Draw a simple diagram of a plant (root, stem,
leaves) to illustrate the water flow through it.
Root, stem and leaves:











c) As you saw in Q.3 d), photosynthesis does not take place a full 24 hours a day. Yet water
does come up through the plant a full 24 hours a day. What happens to the excess water? How
might you know this by looking at a plant in the early morning? Very briefly explain the
physics behind this process.
The excess water comes out of the leaves as a waste; we know this because in the morning
there are water droplets on the leaves. In the day, the water evaporates too quickly, so we
dont see it, however at night, it condenses, meaning that the next morning we can see the
water droplets.




Q.5 ENERGY/SUNLIGHT
a) Roughly which wavelengths of light are used for photosynthesis? How do you know this
from a simple observation about green plants?
The wavelengths used for photosynthesis are the red and the blue. We know this because
when you look at a plant, you see that it is green, this means that the green light is being
reflected (not used) while the red and blue lights are being absorbed by the leaf.

b) A green plant must be able to maximise photosynthesis and absorb as much light as
possible. It therefore has packed chloroplasts in the leaves. But how are the leaves and whole
stems and branches arranged in order to maximise sunlight absorption? Draw some simple
diagrams. Remember that plants in the tropics and in the north and/or south latitudes may
have different characteristics.













c) See if you can find some figures for the amount of sunlight absorbed by green plants on the
Earths surface.
About 48% of the total incoming solar energy is absorbed by the Earths surface; however,
this doesnt only include green plants,

Q.6 OXYGEN
a) Plants, like all living organisms, use oxygen all the time. For what reaction?
Respiration
b) But they give off more oxygen while they are photosynthesising. This oxygen accumulates
in the atmosphere. What percentage of the atmosphere is oxygen?
20%
c) There will probably be two times during 24 hours when the amount of oxygen absorbed
into the plant equals the amount of oxygen generated in photosynthesis. What is the word
used to describe these moments in the day?

d) Why can we say that this point of balance between oxygen consumption and generation
occurs twice during 24 hours?

Q.7 CARBOHYDRATES
Glucose is first formed by all green plants, but this is rapidly converted into other
carbohydrates and organic compounds, which the plant can store or use.
a) What is the principle chemical storage which plants accumulate in their leaves or roots or
even stems?
Glucose
b) Some plants might use the glucose which they make, right away. For which reaction?
Respiration
c) What two other types of chemical compound might the glucose be converted into?
Cellulose and Proteins
d) What does a green plant use these chemical compounds for?
They are used for cell walls and for growth and repair.