Skip to content
Science, Maths & Technology

Carbon process: Photosynthesis

Updated Sunday, 7th May 2000

How do plants absorb carbon dioxide - and why?

This page was published over five years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy

Leaves Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

Carbon is a raw material for photosynthesis, in the form of carbon dioxide. Green plants use it to make vital organic compounds.

On the land, plants get the carbon they need as a gas from the air. In water, plants ranging from seaweeds to phytoplankton are supplied by dissolved carbon dioxide, CO2.

Once inside, the carbon enters the plants' cells, and eventually the tiny green structures called chloroplasts. These give leaves their colour, and capture light energy from the Sun.

What happens next is a complex chain of reactions that can be summarised very simply. Water and carbon dioxide are converted, using the sun's energy, into simple sugars. The oxygen released in the reaction is now available for other organisms to respire.





Related content (tags)

Copyright information

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?