Our world desperately needs an energy efficient way to produce H2 for energy production without producing waste pollutants. Catalytic cracking of molecules and newly developed fuel cells offer two possibilities. Wouldn't it be great if a reactant like water could be used for H2 production (without the use of electrolysis) or expensive metal catalysts? Nature may show the way. Bacteria (even E. Coli found in our GI system) can use simple metals like iron to produce H2 from H+ with electrons for the reduction of H+ coming from a donor (such as a reduced heme in proteins):
So how can these factors have an effect on the rate of photosynthesis? Lets start off with the light intensity. When the light intensity is poor, there is a shortage of ATP and NADPH, as these are products from the light dependent reactions. Without these products the light independent reactions can't occur as glycerate 3-phosphate cannot be reduced. Therefore a shortage of these products will limit the rate of photosynthesis. When the carbon dioxide concentration is low, the amount of glycerate 3-phosphate produced is limited as carbon dioxide is needed for its production and therefore the rate of photosynthesis is affected. Finally, many enzymes are involved during the process of photosynthesis. At low temperatures these enzymes work slower. At high temperatures the enzymes no longer work effectively. This affects the rate of the reactions in the Calvin cycle and therefore the rate of photosynthesis will be affected.
Photophosphorylation is the production of ATP using the energy of sunlight. Photophosphorylation is made possible as a result of chemiosmosis. Chemiosmosis is the movement of ions across a selectively permeable membrane, down their concentration gradient. During photosynthesis, light is absorbed by chlorophyll molecules. Electrons within these molecules are then raised to a higher energy state. These electrons then travel through Photosystem II, a chain of electron carriers and Photosystem I. As the electrons travel through the chain of electron carriers, they release energy. This energy is used to pump hydrogen ions across the thylakoid membrane and into the space within the thylakoid. A concentration gradient of hydrogen ions forms within this space. These then move back across the thylakoid membrane, down their concentration gradient through ATP synthase. ATP synthase uses the energy released from the movement of hydrogen ions down their concentration gradient to synthesise ATP from ADP and inorganic phosphate.
The light-independant reactions of photosynthesis occur in the stroma of the chloroplast and involve the conversion of carbon dioxide and other compounds into glucose. The light-independent reactions can be split into three stages, these are carbon fixation, the reduction reactions and finally the regeneration of ribulose bisphosphate. Collectively these stages are known as the Calvin Cycle.
In addition to producing NADPH, the light dependent reactions also produce oxygen as a waste product. When the special chlorophyll molecule at the reaction centre passes on the electrons to the chain of electron carriers, it becomes positively charged. With the aid of an enzyme at the reaction centre, water molecules within the thylakoid space are split. Oxygen and H+ ions are formed as a result and the electrons from the splitting of these water molecules are given to chlorophyll. The oxygen is then excreted as a waste product. This splitting of water molecules is called photolysis as it only occurs in the presence of light.
Photosynthesis occurs inside chloroplasts. Chloroplasts contain chlorophyll, a green pigment found inside the thylakoid membranes. These chlorophyll molecules are arranged in groups called photosystems. There are two types of photosystems, Photosystem II and Photosystem I. When a chlorophyll molecule absorbs light, the energy from this light raises an electron within the chlorophyll molecule to a higher energy state. The chlorophyll molecule is then said to be photoactivated. Excited electron anywhere within the photosystem are then passed on from one chlorophyll molecule to the next until they reach a special chlorophyll molecule at the reaction centre of the photosystem. This special chlorophyll molecule then passes on the excited electron to a chain of electron carriers.
If the light intensity is not a limiting factor, there will usually be a shortage of NADP+ as NADPH accumulates within the stroma (see light independent reaction). NADP+ is needed for the normal flow of electrons in the thylakoid membranes as it is the final electron acceptor. If NADP+ is not available then the normal flow of electrons is inhibited. However, there is an alternative pathway for ATP production in this case and it is called cyclic photophosphorylation. It begins with Photosystem I absorbing light and becoming photoactivated. The excited electrons from Photosystem I are then passed on to a chain of electron carriers between Photosystem I and II. These electrons travel along the chain of carriers back to Photosystem I and as they do so they cause the pumping of protons across the thylakoid membrane and therefore create a proton gradient. As explained previously, the protons move back across the thylakoid membrane through ATP synthase and as they do so, ATP is produced. Therefore, ATP can be produced even when there is a shortage of NADP+.
Glycerate 3-phosphate is reduced during the reduction reactions to a three-carbon sugar called triose phosphate. Energy and hydrogen is needed for the reduction and these are supplied by ATP and NADPH + H+ (both produced during light-dependent reactions) respectively. Two triose phosphate molecules can then react together to form glucose phosphate. The condensation of many molecules of glucose phosphate forms starch which is the form of carbohydrate stored in plants. However, out of six triose phosphates produced during the reduction reactions, only one will be used to synthesise glucose phosphate. The five remaining triose phosphates will be used to regenerate RuBP.
The regeneration of RuBP is essential for carbon fixation to continue. Five triose phosphate molecules will undergo a series of reactions requiring energy from ATP, to form three molecules of RuBP. RuBP is therefore consumed and produced during the light-independent reactions and therefore these reactions form a cycle which is named the Calvin cycle.
our topic right now, namely photosynthesis,is arguably one of the most important chemical reactions occurring on theplanet. Let's see why.