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What Is the Importance of Chlorophyll for Photosynthesis?

By Lee Johnson
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The importance of chlorophyll for photosynthesis is that it captures light energy from the sun to produce glucose via a chemical reaction. Chlorophyll specifically absorbs light from the red and blue parts of the light spectrum, and reflects green light. This is the reason that plants appear green to us. The chloroplasts within the plant store the chlorophyll, and these are found in the mesophyll layer of the leaf. The chemical reaction that takes place involves six molecules of carbon dioxide and six of water, to produce glucose and six molecules of oxygen gas.

The main use of chlorophyll for photosynthesis is to capture the electromagnetic light energy from the sun. Sunlight is broken up into a spectrum of colors, the visible portion of which humans see in rainbows and in light shone through prisms. Chlorophyll uses the red and blue parts of the light to create the energy required for photosynthesis. Different forms of chlorophyll absorb slightly different colors of light. No types absorb green light, so all of the green light from the sun is reflected by the plant, which makes humans see them as green in color.

The chloroplasts of the plant store the chlorophyll which is used in photosynthesis. These chloroplasts are found in the middle layer of the leaves of plants, known as the mesophyll layer. They contain thylakoids, the membranes which hold the chlorophyll. The chlorophyll is made up of carbon, nitrogen, and a central magnesium ion.

Photosynthesis is the transformation of carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen. Six carbon dioxide molecules (CO2) and six water molecules (H2O) react to produce one glucose molecule (C6H12O6) and six molecules of oxygen gas (O2). Nothing is lost in this reaction, as with all chemical reactions; it is balanced on both sides. The chlorophyll for photosynthesis is used to provide the energy required for the reaction to take place. The sunlight absorbed by the chlorophyll serves as a catalyst.

The use of chlorophyll for photosynthesis occurs in the light portion of the reaction. Photosynthesis has one part which occurs during daylight and another which occurs at night. The chlorophyll converts the light energy into chemical energy by forming adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is similar to the structure of DNA. The ATP is used as part of the reaction that occurs in the dark as an energy source. Photosynthesis can be thought of as containing a “charging” phase and a “release” phase.

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Discussion Comments
By Andrewtrud — On Jun 14, 2013

So Sunlight +Chlorophyll + CO2 +H20 = glucose and oxygen.

Glucose can be fermented by yeast to produce CO2 and alcohol, alcohol can fuel energy production, CO2 mixes with water and chlorophyll to make more glucose and Oxygen. Result: Chlorophyll, Yeast, common organic compounds. Result alcohol fuel, by product oxygen. Am I missing something?

By Ana1234 — On Mar 17, 2013

I remember my dad teaching me about chlorophyll and photosynthesis when I was a kid, which really helped when I got to high school and started to learn about it formally, because I already knew the words and what they basically meant.

It's actually a really amazing process and without it, we wouldn't be here right now, since plants are the reason we can collect energy from the sun ourselves.

By indigomoth — On Mar 16, 2013

@pastanaga - That doesn't really explain it, since the green algae were still competing with each other and if being black would be an advantage they would have taken it.

But, it's hard to know. Maybe it wouldn't have been an advantage in another way. Maybe it's just extremely difficult for the genes to express themselves like that by accident, for whatever reason.

Evolution is not an exact process since it's basically doing everything by trial and error.

By pastanaga — On Mar 16, 2013

Apparently there is a bit of debate in the scientific community as to why chlorophyll and therefore plants don't use the energy from green light.

It seems to make sense that they would use all kinds of light and appear black because of it. That would be the most efficient way of using sunlight.

The best theory at the moment is that when algae were first developing chlorophyll, they were competing against the red algae that we still have today and that green was more efficient, because it absorbed better amounts of energy. It was so efficient it almost completely overtook the red form and spread everywhere and after that there was no need to develop a black phenotype.

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