- Energy flows into an ecosystem as sunlight and exits as heat; in contrast, the chemical elements essential to life are recycled. Photosynthesis generates oxygen as well as organic molecules used by the mitochondria of eukaryotes as fuel for cellular respiration. Respiration breaks this fuel down, using oxygen and generating ATP. The waste products of this type of respiration, carbon dioxide and water, are the raw materials for photosynthesis.
- Organic compounds possess potential energy in the arrangement of electrons in the bonds between their atoms. Through the activity of enzymes, a cell systematically degrades complex organic molecules that are rich in potential energy to simpler waste products that have less energy, some of the energy is captured as work, the rest is dissipated as heat.
- Fermentation is a partial degradation of sugars or other organic fuel that occurs without the use of oxygen, however the most efficient catabolic pathway is aerobic respiration which consumes oxygen.
- The cells of most eukaryotic and many prokaryotic organisms can carry out aerobic respiration. Some prokaryotes use substances other than oxygen as reactants in a similar process and harvest chemical energy without oxygen, this is called anaerobic respiration .
- The equation of aerobic respiration, also called cellular respiration, is: C_6 H_12 O_6+6O_26→6CO_2+6H_2 O+ATP+heat
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