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Adrienne Toney

Is Photosynthesis Limited by Light Intensity?

Background Information:

Photosynthesis is the process of which a plant receives carbon dioxide from humans, automobiles, and

etc. in order to make food for itself and release oxygen into the atmosphere for other beings to survive.

When light is absorbed into leaf pigments, such as chlorophyll a or b, the electron within each of those

photosystems are upgraded to a higher energy level. Once light is absorbed into the leaves, the leaves will

begin to experience the Light Phase. The Light Phase makes it possible for oxygen to circulate around

Earth because this process releases oxygen into the air. The light During the Light Phase H₂O is split and

ATP is added to the equation, this process creates glucose for the plant to survive and releases O₂ into the

air. Because oxygen is released into the air only H+ and ATP remain to continue on to the Calvin Cycle.


If a beaker containing leaf disks is closer to a light source then the disks will raise at a higher rate because

the rate of photosynthesis should increase the closer you are to a light source.


Independent Variable(s) Dependent Variable(s) Controlled Variable(s)

Distance from the light The time it take for the leaf Temperature

(One beaker was 1 foot away disks to float

from the lamp and another

beaker was 2 feet away from the


- - Size of leaf disks

- - The same type of spinach was

used for both experiments

- - Presence of CO₂


1. Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda)

2. 2 Plastic Syringes

3. Spinach Leaves

4. 2 Straws

5. 2 Beakers

6. 1 Ruler (12 inch/ 1 foot)

7. Stopwatch (iPhone)

8. Stirring Rod

9. 2 Electric Lamps

10. Tap Water

11. 1 Drop of Dishwasher Soap in Each Beaker


1. Two beakers were taken and filled with the same amount and concentration of sodium

bicarbonate. ( One quarter full for both beakers)

2. Four spinach leaves were taken and a straw was used to to punch out 20 leaf disks from the

spinach leaves. The leaf stems and veins were avoided and the disks were taken out of the straw

gently so that their would be no damage being made to them.

3. Two plastic syringes were taken and 10 leaf disks were placed into one syringe while the

remaining leaf disks were put in the other plastic syringe.

4. The plunger was inserted back into the syringe and then pushed down to the 1mL mark. While

this was happening special attention was being given to the leaf disks so that they wouldn’t be


5. The 2 plastic syringes were placed into the 2 separate beakers filled with sodium bicarbonate

simultaneously and then filled with the substance until the plunger reached 5mL and all of leaves

were completely submerged in the solution.

6. A vacuum was created in the plunger so that air would be drawn on of the leaf tissue. A finger

was placed firmly on the tip and the plunger was pulled back to the 10mL mark. The syringe was

tilted upward and twirled for 10 seconds before releasing the plunger. If the leaf disks drop to the

bottom of the solution then the process was completed. If the leaf disks do not drop to the bottom

then the process has to be repeated.

7. The leaf disks were emptied into each beaker. (Syringe 1 was dumped into Beaker 1 & Syringe

2was dumped into Beaker 2)

8. Two electric lamps (these were not heat lamps) were plugged in and then set at an equal distance

from each other. The tops of the lamps were adjusted downwards for the sake of the experiment.

9. A 12 inch ruler was used to measure the distance of 1 foot from beaker one to lamp one. As for

beaker two the lamp was placed two feet away from it with the help of the ruler.

10. The times for the leaf disks to rise while under the influence of light intensity was timed with an

iPhone stopwatch. This step took a while to finish, but the leaf disks were recorded into the

observation table if they even rose the tiniest bit.


Does distance affect light intensity?

Time (mins) # of floating disk # of floating disks

(Beaker is 1 foot away from (Beaker is 2 feet away from

lamp) lamp)

1 1 2

2 1 4

3 2 4

4 2 5

5 2 6

6 2 6

7 2 6

8 2 8

Leaf Disks are being emptied into the


Group members are discussing what the next

step is for the experiment

Leaf disks are being emptied with the help of

a straw


In conclusion, the hypothesis was proven to be incorrect according to the lab experiment. The hypothesis

that was created during group work was : “If a beaker containing leaf disks is closer to a light source then

the disks will raise at a higher rate because the rate of photosynthesis should increase the closer you are to

a light source”. According to the data from the experiment, the beaker that was further away from the

light source contained leaf disks that rose faster instead of the beaker that was closer to the light source.

Although this is data coming straight from the experiment, it’s possible that it may be inaccurate. Further

research shows that the original hypothesis should have been correct. Plants utilize solar energy from the

sun during the process of photosynthesis. Therefore, light is a vital factor in this process. Plants aren’t

able to complete their process of photosynthesis without a light source. Therefore, the proximity and

presence of a light source is crucial to a plant’s survival and growth.


Since the hypothesis was proven to be incorrect in this experiment it is believed that the lack of

dishwasher soap may have had something to do with it. Only one drop of the soap was added to each

beaker, and that may have affected the solution ability to pass through the leaf disks, consequently,

photosynthesis failed must have failed while the experiment was still ongoing. Another error could’ve

been the lamp proximity to the beakers. The lamps used during the experiment weren’t heat lamps and the

don’t give off solar energy. These factors may have impacted the experiment negatively since it was

conducted differently than how it is in nature. A heat lamp would’ve been better to use in this experiment

since it emits heat and plants in nature have access to a light source that also emits heat. Although, a heat

lamp would’ve been better to use for the experiment, it was decided against since the experiment wasn’t

test for heat but light intensity.


1. Diagram of input and output sources of plants (classwork)

2. Lesson 2 Packet

3. RSC Article