Main Structures and Summary of Photosynthesis


Photo of a tree with labels shows photosynthesis. Arrows indicate that the tree uses carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight to make sugars and oxygen.  Water is absorbed through the tree's roots; sunlight is absorbed through the tree's leaves; the tree also absorbs carbon dioxide, and releases oxygen.
Photosynthesis uses solar energy, carbon dioxide, and water to produce energy-storing carbohydrates. Oxygen is generated as a waste product of photosynthesis. Source: OpenStax Biology 2e

OpenStax Biology 2e

Photosynthesis is a multi-step process that requires specific wavelengths of visible sunlight, carbon dioxide (which is low in energy), and water as substrates. After the process is complete, it releases oxygen and produces glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (G3P), as well as simple carbohydrate molecules (high in energy) that can then be converted into glucose, sucrose, or any of dozens of other sugar molecules. These sugar molecules contain energy and the energized carbon that all living things need to survive.

The following is the chemical equation for photosynthesis:

The photosynthesis equation is shown. According to this equation, six carbon dioxide and six water molecules produce one sugar molecule and six oxygen molecules. The sugar molecule is made of six carbons, twelve hydrogens, and six oxygens. Sunlight is used as an energy source.
The basic equation for photosynthesis is deceptively simple. In reality, the process takes place in many steps involving intermediate reactants and products. Glucose, the primary energy source in cells, is made from two three-carbon G3Ps. Source: OpenStax Biology 2e


Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at:


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