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DATE: 19/9/17

TITLE: Investigating if chlorophyll is necessary for photosynthesis

AIM: To investigate if chlorophyll is necessary for photosynthesis

APPARATUS AND MATERIALS: Variegated hibiscus leaf, water bath, ethanol, forceps,
boiling tube, test tube holder, iodine solution, white tile, tap water.




1. A drawing of a variegated leaf was drawn before the experiment was started.
2. The variegated leaf was placed into the boiling water bath for 3 minutes.
3. The leaf was carefully removed using a forcep and placed into a boiling tube that was
1/3-filled with ethanol.
4. The boiling tube was placed into the water bath until all the colour had dissolved out of
the leaf.
5. The leaf was gently removed from the alcohol (as it was brittle) and dipped into the
boiling water of the water bath again.
6. The leaf was gently spread out on the white tile and covered completely with iodine
7. All observations made was recorded using a biological drawing.


Photosynthesis converts light energy into the chemical energy of sugars and other organic
compounds. This process consists of a series of chemical reactions that require carbon dioxide
(CO2) and water (H2O) and store chemical energy in the form of sugar. Light energy from
light drives the reactions. Oxygen (O2) is a by-product of photosynthesis and is released into
the atmosphere. The following equation summarizes photosynthesis:

6CO2 +12H2O + energy = C6H12O6 + 6O2 + 6H2O (equation 1)

Photosynthesis transfers electrons from water to energy-poor CO2 molecules, forming energy-
rich sugar molecules. This electron transfer is an example of an oxidation-reduction process:
the water is oxidized (loses electrons) and the CO2 is reduced (gains electrons). Photosynthesis
uses light energy to drive the electrons from water to their more energetic states in the sugar
products, thus converting solar energy into chemical energy.

Chlorophyll molecules embedded in the thylakoid membrane absorb light energy. These
molecules are the most important pigments for absorbing the light energy used in
photosynthesis. A chlorophyll molecule has a hydrophobic "tail" that embeds the molecule into
the thylakoid membrane. The "head" of a chlorophyll molecule is a ring called a porphyrin.
The porphyrin ring of chlorophyll, which has a magnesium atom at its centre, is the part of a
chlorophyll molecule that absorbs light energy

A variegated leaf includes different patches of colors like green, yellow, white, brown etc. The
leaf used in this experiment was green and white. A green patch in the leaf include chlorophyll
while other white patches in the leaf include other colored pigments other than chlorophyll.

Iodine is a purple colored reagent used to test the presence or absence of starch in the leaf
conducted for photosynthesis process. In the presence of starch iodine solution will turn into
blue-black color and in the absence of starch iodine added to leaf will turn into brown color. In
this experiment, the part of the variegated leaf which contain green patches gave a positive test
for starch i.e. iodine when added to this part of the leaf turned into blue-black color. The reason
for this is, this part of the experimental leaf containing green patches include chlorophyll and
thus prepare starch through photosynthesis. Thus iodine added to this region will turn into blue-
back color. But colored patches of variegated leaf doesn't include chlorophyll and thus don't
prepare starch through photosynthesis. So iodine added in this region will change into brown

Boiling the leaf in ethanol was done in a water bath.

The mouth of the boiling tube was ensured to not face the classmates.

SOURCES OF ERROR: Every effort was made to reduce experimental error in this
experiment. However, the experiment may be compromised by:

The leaf was not boiled enough in the water bath, not softening the waxy cuticle enough
to allow the iodine solution to penetrate the leaf and react with the starch.
The leaf was not boiled long enough in the ethanol, resulting in the green colour of the
leaf still being present and masking the colour change of the iodine tests.

LIMITATIONS: Every effort was made to reduce experimental error in this experiment.
However, the experiment may be improved by:

The leaf could have been kept in a dark place before the experiment causing it to use
up its starch reserves.
A leaf from a plant which photosynthesises too slowly to build up significant starch
reserves could have been used.


It can be concluded that the green areas of the leave tested positive for the presence of starch
due to the presence of chlorophyll. Hence, photosynthesis cannot occur without Chlorophyll.

REFLECTION: From this investigation, I have acquired a better understanding of what is

photosynthesis and how chlorophyll is important for this process. I can now appreciate that
photosynthesis is the process by which plants make their own food using carbon dioxide, water
and energy to produce glucose and oxygen. I now realize that there are different factors which
affect photosynthesis. This investigation shows us that photosynthesis is important to all plants
and without chlorophyll plants would die. Chlorophyll is a complex molecule. I further learnt
that several modifications of chlorophyll occur among plants and other photosynthetic
organisms. All photosynthetic organisms have chlorophyll which absorbs its energy from the
violet-blue and red wavelengths, and little or none from the intermediate (green-yellow-orange)
wavelengths. Chlorophyll is significant to plants whereby it helps makes food for the plant. In
addition, photosynthesis is important as it creates the gas called oxygen for humans to breathe
and also allows plants to grow, which feeds humans. I learnt that the green parts of a variegated
leaf contain chlorophyll and it will turn a blue black colour indicating that starch is present.
During this investigation no adjustments were made whereby everything went as planned.
Though, if the experiment was not yielding proper results, the procedure would have had to be
adjusted. Overall, this was an interesting practical investigation where I got to better understand
and answer questions about the importance of chlorophyll and photosynthesis to plants.