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Photosynthesis Equation: What Is It? How Does It Work?


The word photosynthesis comes from two Greek words: photo, meaning “light”, and synthesis, meaning “put together.” Looking at that those two roots, we have a good idea of what happens during the chemical process of photosynthesis: plants put together water and carbon dioxide with light to create glucose and oxygen.

In this article, we’ll break down what photosynthesis is, why photosynthesis is important, and discuss the chemical equation for photosynthesis: what it is and what each part of it means.


What Is Photosynthesis?

Put simply, photosynthesis is how plants, algae, and certain types of bacteria harness energy from sunlight to create chemical energy for themselves to live.

There are two main types of photosynthesis: oxygenic photosynthesis and anoxygenic photosynthesis. Oxygenic photosynthesis is more common—that’s the type we see in plants and algae. Anoxygenic photosynthesis mainly occurs in bacteria.

In oxygenic photosynthesis, plants use light energy to combine carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). This chemical reaction produces carbohydrates for the plants to consume and oxygen, which is released back into the air.

Anoxygenic photosynthesis is very similar, but it doesn’t produce oxygen. We’ll be focusing on the more common type of photosynthesis, oxygenic photosynthesis, for the rest of this article.


Why Is Photosynthesis Important?

Photosynthesis is important for a few reasons:

First, it produces energy that plants need to live. The resulting carbohydrates provide plants with the energy to grow and live.

Second, photosynthesis helps take in the carbon dioxide produced by breathing organisms and convert that into oxygen, which is then reintroduced back into the atmosphere. Basically, with photosynthesis, plants are helping produce the oxygen that all living things need to breathe and survive.




Photosynthesis Equation

Here is the chemical equation for photosynthesis:

6CO2 + 12H2O + Light Energy ------> C6H12O6 + 6O2 + 6H2O


Photosynthesis Formula Breakdown

Now that we know what the photosynthesis equation is, let’s break down each piece of the photosynthesis formula.

On the reactants side, we have:

6CO2 = Six molecules of carbon dioxide

12H2O = Twelve molecules of water

Light Energy = Light from the sun

On the products side, we have:

C6H12O6 = glucose

6O2 = six molecules of oxygen

6H2O = six molecules of water

As we learned earlier, the glucose will be used by the plant as energy. The oxygen and water will be released back into the atmosphere to help other living things.


What You Need to Know About the Photosynthesis Formula

During photosynthesis, plants use light energy to combine carbon dioxide and water to produce glucose, oxygen, and water.

Photosynthesis is important because it provides plants with the energy they need to survive. It also releases needed oxygen and water back into the atmosphere.


What's Next?

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Need help with English class—specifically with identifying literary devices in texts you read? Then you'll definitely want to take a look at our comprehensive explanation of the most important literary devices and how they're used.



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Hayley Milliman
About the Author

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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