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Photosynthesis is the process of converting light energy to chemical energy and storing it in the bonds of sugar. This process occurs in plants and some algae (Kingdom Protista). Plants need only light energy, CO2, and H2O to make sugar. The process of photosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts, specifically using chlorophyll, the green pigment involved in photosynthesis.

[Leaf Cross-Section] Photosynthesis takes place primarily in plant leaves, and little to none occurs in stems, etc. The parts of a typical leaf include the upper and lower epidermis, the mesophyll, the vascular bundle(s) (veins), and the stomates. The upper and lower epidermal cells do not have chloroplasts, thus photosynthesis does not occur there. They serve primarily as protection for the rest of the leaf. The stomates are holes which occur primarily in the lower epidermis and are for air exchange: they let CO2 in and O2 out. The vascular bundles or veins in a leaf are part of the plant's transportation system, moving water and nutrients around the plant as needed. The mesophyll cells have chloroplasts and this is where photosynthesis occurs.

[Chloroplast] As you hopefully recall, the parts of a chloroplast include the outer and inner membranes, intermembrane space, stroma, and thylakoids stacked in grana. The chlorophyll is built into the membranes of the thylakoids.

Chlorophyll looks green because it absorbs red and blue light, making these colors unavailable to be seen by our eyes. It is the green light which is NOT absorbed that finally reaches our eyes, making chlorophyll appear green. However, it is the energy from the red and blue light that are absorbed that is, thereby, able to be used to do photosynthesis. The green light we can see is not/cannot be absorbed by the plant, and thus cannot be used to do photosynthesis.

The overall chemical reaction involved in photosynthesis is: 6CO2 + 6H2O (+ light energy) --> C6H12O6 + 6O2. This is the source of the O2 we breathe, and thus, a significant factor in the concerns about deforestation.

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