EGEE 401
Energy in a Changing World

Radiant to Chemical

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Photosynthesis

Sun shining on tree.
Figure 2.3: Photosynthesis: In the process of photosynthesis, plants convert radiant energy from the sun into chemical energy in the form of glucose - or sugar.
Water (6H2O) + carbon dioxide (6 CO2) + sunlight (radiant energy) = glucose (C6H12O6) + Oxygen (6O2).

Photosynthesis is the transformation of radiant energy to chemical energy.

Plants take in water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight and turn them into glucose and oxygen. Called photosynthesis, one of the results of this process is that carbon dioxide is removed from the air. It is nature's process for returning carbon from the atmosphere to the earth.

The "fossil fuels" we use today (oil, coal, and natural gas) are all formed from plants and animals that died millions of years ago and were fossilized. When we burn (combust) these carbon-rich fuels, we are pulling carbon from the earth and releasing it into the environment.

Viewing Assignment

Watch the video Photosynthesis, a segment excerpted from Interactive NOVA: "Earth."

A hint of things to come! We'll learn more about photosynthesis and related process later, when we study the carbon cycle (the natural movement of carbon atoms between the atmosphere, oceans, earth, and living things).