Photosynthesis is a process by which radiant energy in the form of visible light is captured by photosynthetic organisms (including plants, algae, cyanobacteria, and bacteria) and converted to stable chemical energy. Photosynthetic organisms harvest and use light energy to make carbohydrate (sugars) by fixing carbon dioxide. Animals must obtain photosynthetically generated chemical energy by ingesting plants or by consuming other animals that feed on plants. Photosynthetic efficiency places a ceiling on the amount of energy that can be stored in our food reserves, and thus, the properties of photosynthesis are important to the scientist working in food technology and production. This review deals mostly with the fundamentals of the process of photosynthesis as they occur in higher plants. Detailed reviews on other aspects of photosynthesis have been published elsewhere (1-5).

The complete process of photosynthesis can be summarized by the reaction:

That is, light drives the conversion of carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrate and oxygen. Oxygenic photosynthetic organisms use H20 as an electron donor to convert light energy into chemical energy. However, anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria use inorganic (eg, H2S) or organic (eg, succinate) hydrogen donors instead of H20. Without the energetic input of light, the conversion of C02 to C(H20) is thermodynamically uphill by 114 kcal/mol. In plants and algae, photosynthesis is confined to a special organelle called the chloroplast (1). Photosynthesis can be divided into two distinct sets of reactions: the light reactions (light harvesting and electron transport) and the dark reactions (carbon reduction and biosynthesis).

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