Photosynthesis converts light energy into the chemical energy of sugars and other organic compounds. This process consists of a series of chemical reactions that require carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) and store chemical energy in the form of sugar. Light energy from light drives the reactions. Oxygen (O2) is a byproduct of photosynthesis and is released into the atmosphere. The following equation summarizes photosynthesis:
6 CO2 + 6 H2O → 6(CH2O) + 6 O2
Photosynthesis transfers electrons from water to energy-poor CO2 molecules, forming energy-rich sugar molecules. This electron transfer is an example of an oxidation-reduction process: the water is oxidized (loses electrons) and the CO2 is reduced (gains electrons). Photosynthesis uses light energy to drive the electrons from water to their more energetic states in the sugar products, thus converting solar energy into chemical energy.