C. Energy Conversion in Microorganisms
4. The Flow of Energy In Nature
Learning Objectives for this Section
For the vast majority of life on earth, the flow of energy begins with sunlight and involves a cycle involving photoautotrophs and chemoorganoheterotrophs. Photoautotrophs use sunlight as a source of energy and through the process of photosynthesis, reduce carbon dioxide to form carbohydrates such as glucose. The radient energy is converted to the chemical bond energy within glucose.
The overall reaction for photosynthesis is as follows:
6CO2 + 6H2O in the presence of light and chlorophyll yields C6H12O6 + 6O2
Note that carbon dioxide (CO2) is reduced to produce glucose (C6H12O6 ) and water (H2O) is oxidized to produce oxygen (O2).
Both chemoorganoheterotrophs and photoautotrophs then convert the chemical bond energy of glucose to the chemical bond energy of ATP, the form of energy required to do most cellular work. This is done through the process called aerobic respiration.
The overall reaction for aerobic respiration is:
C6H12O6 + 6O2 yields 6CO2 + 6H2O + energy (as ATP)
Note that glucose (C6H12O6 ) is oxidized to produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) is reduced to produce water (H2O).
As can be seen, the end products for aerobic respiration, carbon dioxide and water, are the reactants for photosynthesis while the end products of photosynthesis, glucose and oxygen, are the reactants for aerobic respiration. In other words, the nutrients are continuously recycled between the two processes. Energy, however, is converted from one form to another: from radient energy to the chemical bond energy of glucose to the chemical bond energy of ATP.
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