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Photosynthesis

In the Photosynthesis lab, you will learn about the molecular processes that enable plants and algae to convert the light energy into chemical energy.

About This Simulation

Photosynthesis uses the energy in sunlight to produce the chemical energy needed for life. This virtual lab focuses on the light reaction of photosynthesis, and on the molecular mechanisms that allow plants and algae to capture sunlight and convert it into chemical energy. Students proceed at their own pace and test learned knowledge instantly by answering quiz questions.

In this lab, the student learns how light energy is converted into chemical energy. They will extract the photopigments of an unknown algal strain and determine photosynthetic activity with the Hill reaction.

Engaging storyline

The student joins an interdisciplinary team on their quest to reduce the environmental impact of a community. The goal is to use the waste products of a coal power plant and a salmon farm as resources for biofuel production. There is an algal strain that has the potential to use the whole spectrum of sunlight for photosynthesis.

Pigment extraction

The student has to extract the pigments of the algal strain and identify the pigments. Equipped with a centrifuge, a spectrophotometer, and all the necessary lab equipment, the student performs the pigment extraction and measures the absorbance spectra.

Learn scientific process

Apart from the theory about photosynthesis and practical knowledge of lab practices, the students have to develop a hypothesis and test it by making choices regarding the experimental procedure. They will learn the importance of experimental controls, and will also have to analyze and report their results.

Understand the molecular processes

In order to prove that the discovered pigment is photosynthetically active, the student has to perform a Hill reaction experiment to measure the redox potential of the electron transport chain. They will learn about the different energy conversion processes that lead to the production of NADPH and ATP.

3D animations

Learning is strongly enhanced with 3D animations that visualize the processes involved in photosynthesis. Be it from the location of the thylakoids and the importance of compartmentalization, to how the electrons are transferred from water to the reaction center.

Screenshots

Collaborators

Learning Objectives

  • Understanding the importance of photosynthesis
  • Understanding properties of light and why pigments are colorful
  • Absorbance spectra and chemical properties of chlorophyll
  • Understanding the photolysis of water and electron transport
  • Understanding how to measure the redox potential of the electron transport chain
  • Hypothesis development and experiment set up to test it

Techniques

  • Centrifugation
  • Working with liquid nitrogen
  • Pigment extraction
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Hill reaction
  • Working with experimental controls

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