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Cellular Respiration and

Photosynthesis lab
Zoe Woods, Leslie Erkocevic, &
Emma Lebek
Background:
Photosynthesis and cellular respiration are interdependent pathways that are central to life.
Photosynthesis converts energy in sunlight into the sugars we eat and the oxygen we breathe. It is
through cellular respiration that we can use those sugars and oxygen to sustain ourselves.
Photosynthesis is a process that takes in CO2 and H2O and produces oxygen and glucose.
H+ and CO2 are basically synonymous- the more H+ that is released, the more CO2 is released.
A lot of CO2 (or H+) means that cellular respiration is increasing, while a smaller amount of CO2 means
that photosynthesis is occurring because the CO2 is being taken in and O2 is being released.
The lighter the pH indicator is, the more acidic it is which indicates more cellular respiration taking place.
The darker (and therefore more basic) it is on the pH scale, the more photosynthesis in taking place.
Blue-green algae developed primitive chloroplasts and began photosynthesizing millions of years ago.
Algae were the original photosynthesizers generated using glucose to grow.
Light intensity measures the amount of light that is given off by a certain source and a higher light
intensity means larger numbers of photons that are available for photosynthesis.
Absorbency measures the amount/percentage of wavelengths that are being absorbed by a particular
substance and can be used to measure photosynthesis as photosynthesis occurs best with red/blue
wavelengths.
Hypothesis:
Higher light intensity leads to a higher rate of photosynthesis because the increased light intensity means that
there are more light photons available to an organisms chloroplasts, and therefore there will be more
available energy to drive the photosynthetic reactions.

Predictions:

The algae balls wrapped in tinfoil (dark) will perform more cellular respiration, and thus be more acidic (lower
pH) due to its higher concentration of CO2 produced as a waste product.

The algae balls exposed to the light bulb (light) will perform more photosynthesis, and thus be more basic
(higher pH), due to the higher concentration of O2 and lower concentration of CO2, as a result of O2
being a byproduct of photosynthesis.

The algae balls under the 100 Watt light will perform photosynthesis at a faster rate than the algae balls
under the 40 watt light because of the higher intensity of light at 100 watts, allowing for more energy to
be passed towards the plants.
Materials:
4 Cuvettes

Algae Beads 100 watt light bulb

Tin Foil 40 watt light bulb

2 Pipettes Spectrophotometer

CO2 Indicator Distilled Water

pH Indicator Timer
Controls: type of algae, number of algae balls, amount of CO2 indicator, time
under light bulb, distance from light bulb, brand of tinfoil, time between pH and
spectrophotometric measurements, amount of surface area of the cuvette
exposed to the light

Independent Variable: wattage of light bulb (40 watts and 100 watts)

Dependent Variable: how much CO2 is produced by algae balls


5. Add 1 mL of CO2 indicator to each of the
Procedure: cuvettes.

6. Label the 4 cuvettes 40 W Light, 40 W


1. Obtain 4 cuvettes and two cuvettes. Dark, 100 W Light, and 100 W Dark to
represent the wattage and environment that the
2. Cut one pipette diagonally with scissors cuvette will be placed in.
into a scoop and use this pipette to
transfer 5 algae beads to each cuvette. 7. Record pH and spectrophotometric reading
at 0 minutes for each of the cuvettes.
3. Use a different pipette to add 5-10 mL of
distilled water to each cuvette to wash the 8. Wrap the Dark cuvettes in tin foil and put
algae beads. Allow algae beads to sit for 5 each of the four cuvettes under the specified
minutes to wash out the indicator within wattage light bulb. Make sure that they are the
the beads. same distance from the light bulb.
4. Use the pipette to suck out a majority of 9. Record the pH and spectrophotometric
the water, leaving a small amount to keep reading every 5 minutes for 30 minutes.
the beads from drying out
Data:
T L D L D L D L D
i i a i a i a i a
m g r g r g r g r
e h k h k h k h k
t t t t
1 1 4 4
1 0 1 0 4 0 4 0
0 0 0 0 0 0
0 0 W W
W W W a W a
W a W a a t a t
a t a t t t t t
t t t t t t
t t S
p S p p S p
p H S p H H p e
H p e e c
e c c
c R
R R e
R e e a
e a a d
a d d i
d i i n
i n n g
n g g s
g s s
Light Cuvette at 40
watts after 30
minutes

Dark cuvette at
40 watts after
30 minutes

Experiment setup for 100 Algae beads and indicator


watt light bulb in cuvettes at 40 watts Experiment setup for 40
after 30 minutes watt light bulb
pH Analysis Graphs

pH pH

Time
Time
The pH of the light cuvette consistently increased,
getting more basic, and the pH of the dark cuvette The pH of both the light and dark followed a similar pattern
went down significantly and became more acidic. throughout the 30 minutes that they were exposed to the 100
As the CO2 indicator became more acidic, it watt light bulb. The pH of the dark cuvette had an overall
showed more more cellular respiration, while, as change of 0.8 and the light cuvette had an overall change of
the CO2 indicator became more basic, it showed 0.3. The erratic pattern shown could be a result of the algae
more photosynthesis. The overall change in pH in beads trying to compensate for harsh environment, as the
the light cuvette was 0.5 and the overall change in 100 watt had a light intensity that was too intense for the
the pH in the dark cuvette was 0.1 chloroplasts.
Spectrometer Absorbency Analysis
Absorbance

Time
The light and dark cuvettes absorbed more blue/violet light than
red/yellow light, which is indicative of more photosynthesis, over
time. However, the light cuvette began to level off after a certain
point, which means that the algae didn't need to absorb as much
light due to the large amount of light that they had already
absorbed.
Conclusion
Hypothesis: Increased light intensity results in more light photons available to an organisms chloroplasts, and
the more photons that can be used by an organism in photosynthesis, the more energy that can be created.

In the end, our prediction that the rate of photosynthesis would increase with an increase in light wattage was
inconclusive. This was largely due to the fact that the erratic data we received from the 100 watt light bulb
came from the light bulb being too intense and so it bleached or burned the chloroplasts. The erratic data
came from the cuvettes trying to compensate for the harsh environment and so we were unable to see if a
higher wattage would actually increase the rate of photosynthesis up to a certain level. However, we were
able to conclude that, at 40 watts, the dark cuvette performed more cellular respiration than photosynthesis,
due to the decrease in pH and therefore the increase in acidity. The light cuvette at 40 watts also showed
evidence of more photosynthesis than cellular respiration from the increase in pH and therefore an increase
in in basicity.

Our results from the spectrophotometer were also inconclusive for the most part. We were unable to find the
absorbency levels for the 40 watt light bulb and therefore were unable to compare the absorbency between
the 100 watt and 40 watt. Also, some of the data collected was scientifically impossible and so that data was
unusable. This was due either to spectrophotometer malfunction or by human error in recording the
readings. However, the data we were able to collect from the 40 watt light bulb told us that the cuvettes
absorbed more blue/violet light than red/yellow light, which is indicative of an increase in photosynthesis up
to a certain point. At a certain point, the absorbance for the light cuvette became stable due to the fact that
the algae absorbed enough light to perform photosynthesis for the time being.
Conclusion (cont.)
We found that our largest source of error came from having to wait in line for the spectrophotometer
readings. The wait times ranged from a minute or two, to almost ten minutes, which may have
affected how the algae balls performed cellular respiration/photosynthesis when away from the light.
Additionally, the rooms temperature may have changed between experiment days/times, and the
change in pressure when opening the cuvettes to test the fluids may have also caused unwanted
changes to our results.

Our results from this lab indicated that, generally, the algae balls exposed to the light underwent more
photosynthesis than cellular respiration. This can be tied into how humans breathe oxygen, which is
produced by plants performing photosynthesis. Vegetation requires high-energy light sources to
produce the oxygen that animals, including humans, require to breathe. Its important for plants to be
exposed to light energy, like the sun, to properly function and give back to the environment.

In this lab, it was clear that exposure to light meant lower acidity, tying in to the conclusion that the algae
balls exposed to light performed photosynthesis more efficiently than those wrapped under the tinfoil.
We were able to understand how CO2, being a product of cellular respiration, corresponds to a higher
acidity, and finally to a lower rate of photosynthesis. Additionally, the results for the 100 watt bulb were
a clear indication that large amounts of light are not always good for a plant. The high amount of
energy exerted by the bulb ended up damaging the algae balls, thus skewing our data and inhibiting
Bibliography
BioRadLifeScience (2016, October 18). Introduction to algae beads, photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z3wui6zFrQ

How does the level of light affect the rate of photosynthesis? (2015). Retrieved January 18, 2017, from UCSB Science Line,
http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=4647

Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration Kit Student Manual [PDF]. (n.d.). BIO-RAD Explorer.