Plants Don’t Convert Co2 into Oxygen

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plants don't convert co2 to oxygenNo, we didn’t make a mistake with the title of this fact. Plants don’t convert CO2 to oxygen at all. No, I didn’t flunk school, and I didn’t make a beg typo. The statement is true and correct, even though it’s what we are taught in schools. Even searching on Google will bring up a snippet stating that oxygen is made from CO2, which is incorrect. I bet you are now wondering exactly where oxygen comes from? It comes from water, that’s right, good old fashioned H2O, not the exhaled carbon dioxide. Shall we explain?

While most people will have learned about photosynthesis and believe that carbon dioxide is converted by plants into oxygen, this isn’t exactly the case. Photosynthesis plays an important role in the process, as does CO2. The entire process of photosynthesis is a two part chemical reaction.

During part one, H2O is converted into oxygen, which requires light energy which is caught mainly by chlorophyll. The chlorophyll converts the light energy into chemical energy which take the form of electrons. This chemical energy splits two water molecules into four electrons, four protons, and two oxygen atoms, combining to produce oxygen. The carbon dioxide comes into play in the second part of the process.

CO2 is used in part two of photosynthesis to produce carbohydrates (sugars). Carbohydrates give the tree life.

How do we know that plants don’t convert CO2 into Oxygen?

We know that plants don’t convert CO2 into oxygen by using radioactive isotopes. By using the isotopes it’s possible to see which produces oxygen, CO2 or H2O. It turns out that the producer of oxygen is actually H2O, also known as water.

So what happens to the oxygen atoms in the CO2? It gets converted in to sugars, for example glucose = C6H12O6.

While water, not carbon dioxide is converted by plants into oxygen, the entire process still requires CO2. Without CO2, there would not be any photosynthesis, and no life on Earth, at least as we know it.


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