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Cellular Basics

Plant Cell Basics

Do plant cells really produce oxygen and use carbon dioxide?

Virtually all life depends on the availability of light, including the light that powers photosynthesis (the process of synthesizing energy). Light travels in waves, and its energy is contained in packets called photons. The energy of a photon is inversely proportional to the wavelength of the light—the longer the wavelength, the less energy per photon. Sunlight consists of a spectrum of colors present in light, with each color represented in a specific wavelength along the electromagnetic spectrum. In general, the most effective wavelengths of light for photosynthesis are blue (at 430 nm, or nanometers, on the electromagnetic spectrum) and red (670 nm). Curiously, green plants have the hardest time with the photosynthetic process in green light.

Yes, plant cells produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Splitting water molecules to harvest their electrons causes the release of oxygen. By submerging a small piece of an aquatic plant in a beaker containing water, one can actually see the oxygen bubbles being produced.

Plants also use carbon dioxide in order to live. A plant’s cells reduce carbon dioxide to sugar by using the electrons that are produced when chlorophyll absorbs light. Simply put, six carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules, along with six water (H2O) molecules, can be converted into a simple sugar (C6H12O6).



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