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The photosynthesis process uses the sun’s energy to combine carbon dioxide and water to form glucose, a sugar. Carbon dioxide enters plants through tiny pores in the bottoms of leaves or by diffusion through cell membranes in the case of algae and protists. Water enters by a variety of means, usually roots, but also by osmosis, which lets water pass through the cell membranes. The sun’s energy, absorbed by the green chemical chlorophyll, fuels the chemical reaction that combines the carbon dioxide molecules with the water molecules to form glucose, one type of sugar, and release oxygen as a waste product. The glucose can be stored in fruits, roots and stems of plants and released through the reverse process of respiration, where oxygen is used to break the glucose down into carbon dioxide and water, releasing the stored energy.


The photosynthesis equation is written as: 6H2O + 6CO2 → C6H12O6 + 6O2 and is explained in words as the reaction of six water molecules with six carbon dioxide molecules yielding one glucose molecule and six oxygen molecules. Note that one oxygen molecule contains a pair of oxygen atoms.

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