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Rate of Photosynthesis and how it can be Altered

Maya Morse
March 14, 2014
Cypress Ellen
Michael Hendrix

This experiment was trying to determine what factors increase the rate of photosynthesis
in baby spinach leaves. Using two different solutions CO2 and H2O the experiment looked at the
speed of photosynthesis occurring in leaves placed in each of these solutions. The study also
introduced a new variable, the type of light put over the leaves, it compared normal yellow light
to a red and blue grow light. The study found that CO2 increases the rate of photosynthesis over
H2O and that red and blue light increases the rate of photosynthesis about the same amount as
CO2, when used with H2O.

Purpose/Discussion of Concepts:
Using disks cut from baby spinach leaves this experiment is looking at the rate of
photosynthesis and how that rate is affected by different variables. Photosynthesis is a plant’s
process of converting light into energy. During this process the spongy mesophyll within a leaf
fills with oxygen. By removing the gases already in the leaf with a vacuum before placing them
in water under a light, this experiment can effectively begin to measure the rate at which
photosynthesis is taking place in those leaves. As photosynthesis occurs and the leaves fill with
oxygen, they will float up to the top of the water.


Time Number of Spinach Disks Floating

H2O CO2 H2O Grow Light
1 Minute 0 2 0
2 Minutes 0 2 0
3 Minutes 0 2 0
4 Minutes 0 2 0
5 Minutes 0 2 0
6 Minutes 0 2 0
7 Minutes 0 2 0
8 Minutes 0 2 2
9 Minutes 0 2 3
10 Minutes 0 3 4
11 Minutes 0 4 5
12 Minutes 1 6 6
13 Minutes 5 6 7
14 Minutes 6 6 7
15 Minutes 7 6 7
16 Minutes 7 9 8
17 Minutes 7 9 8
18 Minutes 7 9 9
19 Minutes 7 9 9
20 Minutes 9 9 9
21 Minutes 10 10 10

This experiment was looking specifically at how certain variables affect the rate of
photosynthesis, these variables being the types of water the spinach leaves were put in, and the
kind of light they were placed under. Each solution used in the experiment contained water and
sodium bicarbonate, essential to make photosynthesis occur. One solution was regular water
(H2O) and the other was carbonated water (CO2), both these solutions were first tested under a
normal light bulb. Because photosynthesis requires both CO2 and H2O, we can guess that since
the carbonated water contained both of these, the process of photosynthesis would be faster.
Indeed looking at the data it appears that CO2 did induce photosynthesis faster than regular
water. The other variable this experiment took into consideration was the type of light. The
original regular bulb was a normal yellow light while the second part of the experiment used a
red and blue grow light. Plants absorb light through pigments in the leaves, the most important of
these pigments is chlorophyll-a, which absorbs red and blue light the best. By using a red and
blue grow light we can guess that even using normal water this might work even faster than the
CO2. Actually they were very similar in the rate at which photosynthesis occured, through the
grow light was a bit more consistent.

Error Analysis:
A few things about this experiment were not perfect.First of all in the CO2 trial, soap was
not added to the solution which made getting the air out of the disks much harder and two of the
leaves may have been damaged because they did not sink at all. Another inconsistency was that
certain leaves would stick to the bottom because of air bubble and the solution would have to be
stirred gently to unstick them. The stirring was done at random times during the experiment and
was not the same for each trial which could have affected the amount of disks that floated. If we
were to do the experiment again we would have to be sure to use all the correct ingredients to the
solutions each time and to pick a time to stir the solutions which would be the same in every
trial. Like stirring each minute or every five minutes.

The results are pretty clear. We can’t really infer anything about the difference between
red and blue light and CO2 solution in terms of effectiveness on the rate of photosynthesis. We
can infer however that both of these conditions will increase the rate of photosynthesis over H2O
and a yellow light. By repeating this experiment more carefully and controlling as many extra
variables as possible and by adding multiple trials of the same solutions and light situations the
results would probably show a more definite difference. It would also be helpful to test the red
and blue light with both H2O and CO2 to see if there would be a difference between the rate of
photosynthesis in CO2 under a regular light and the grow light.