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Photosynthesis Is Fascinating! How Does Mana Get the Most Out of It and What Is Its Potential for Renewable Energy?

The sun is the most important source of energy for life on Earth, and plants harvest this energy better than anything else in nature. How? Photosynthesis—the process by which they convert sunlight into energy. This energy is used by the plants themselves or passed on to other organisms for growth and development all the way up the food chain. In short, life on Earth as we know it could not exist without this essential biochemical process. Indeed, all of our food and most of our energy originates with photosynthesis. Want to know what’s so fascinating about it, how Mana makes the most of it, and how humanity can use it even more effectively in the future? Read on.

The emergence of photosynthesis 2.4 billion years ago was a key moment in the evolution of our planet. Prior to that, during the first half of our Earth’s history, the atmosphere was completely oxygen-free. The climate was very hot and humid, the water was very acidic, and reformation of the Earth’s crust was accompanied by intense volcanic activity. There was life on the planet at that time, just not like we know it now. 

Earth was inhabited by various microorganisms, which, over time, developed a sophisticated way to absorb energy from sunlight and use it to produce carbohydrates and oxygen—one of the most important biogenic elements today. This process, now known as photosynthesis, ushered in a new era.

As production of oxygen increased, 99.5% of the organisms on Earth, which had been evolving for billions of years, perished. To put things in perspective, some argue that extinction of the dinosaurs was only a minor turning point in the evolution of our planet. Photosynthesis is therefore worth studying.

What happens during photosynthesis?

Photosynthesis is a multi-stage process that takes place in the green parts of plants—usually the leaves, but also in the cells of algae, cyanobacteria, and some other organisms. Leaves contain chloroplasts, which are green organelles that can be thought of as “solar power plants.” Inside chloroplasts are special pigments called chlorophylls that capture light energy and use it to convert carbon dioxide (CO₂, which is taken from the air through the pores of the leaves) and water (H₂O, which is taken from the soil through the roots) into oxygen (O₂). 

Plants also use light energy to process carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms (in the form of CO₂ and H₂O) into simple carbohydrate molecules of glucose (C₆H₁₂O₆), which are stored in seeds, roots, and tubers as starch. These carbohydrates are used to fuel the formation of proteins and lipids that make up the plants.

This glucose, which can be stored in the form of glycogen, is the primary source of energy for humans and animals. Liver glycogen is primarily used to maintain blood sugar levels, which is very beneficial when we get hungry between meals, or during strenuous or long-term physical activity. Muscle glycogen, on the other hand, is a quickly available carbohydrate that supplies energy directly to the muscles.

How is Mana related to the process of photosynthesis?

As you already know, the Sun is our primary source of energy, and that its energy is converted into new forms of energy by plants. Plant food is therefore the cleanest and most efficient source of energy/nutrition. In order to produce animal foods, the animals must be fed plants, so the energy we get from animal products enters our bodies only after several steps of processing.

Because Mana effectively uses primary solar energy, we are not afraid to say that it is the next step after photosynthesis in bringing energy to you. In short: The Sun – plants – Mana – your body.

Moreover, Mana contains ingredients with high nutritional value. We make sure of this by subjecting them to detailed analyses in our own and state-certified laboratories. 

Most of the ingredients we use come from European sources. In addition to nutrient content, we analyze quality parameters such as colour, grain size, whether they contain any unwanted allergens, and whether they really are GMO-free. We also take into account how they have been processed, as this has a significant impact on the quality and nutritional balance of Mana. 

Thanks to extensive testing and precise measurement, we can effectively “play” with nutrient ratios and compose them such that our products contain all nutrients the human body needs in the perfect amounts, without any unnecessary “filler.”

When we started developing the first version of Mana seven years ago, one of our goals was to come up with a food that would be nutritionally complete, healthy, and tasty. In short—a food that can store as much plant energy as possible. Using the latest findings in science, a careful approach, and state-of-the-art technology, we have succeeded. We can confidently say that Mana captures photosynthetically transformed solar energy with maximum efficiency. 

But the way photosynthesis is used in the food industry is not the only reason we are fascinated by it...

What role can photosynthesis play in the development of renewable energy?

The biochemical process of photosynthesis is the origin of all our food and most of our energy. Consider the fact that energy captured by plants living millions of years ago is stored today in fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Combustion of these fuels releases almost the same amount of energy that was deposited in them millions of years ago by the Sun.

In recent decades, however, energy requirements have increased rapidly due to population growth. By 2050, humanity as a whole will consume twice as much energy as it does now. But if leveraged correctly, photosynthesis can be used to build a more sustainable future.

Knowledge of natural processes like photosynthesis helps scientists develop new ways of utilizing renewable energy sources. Because sunlight, plants, and bacteria are everywhere in nature, using photosynthesis to produce carbon-neutral fuels such as hydrogen or even methane is a logical step.

A few years ago, researchers from the University of Turku in Finland determined a way to extend the period for which green algae produce hydrogen to up to three days. The results of the study were published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. 

Scientists have also begun to recreate photosynthesis under laboratory conditions. For example, researchers at the University of Cambridge created a semi-artificial form of photosynthesis which uses light to decompose water into oxygen and hydrogen.

Despite these gains, the efficiency of using photosynthesis for human energy needs is still far from ideal. Plants utilize only around 1% of the sunlight that hits them, while solar panels use around 20%. Though the latter figure is a symbol of progress, photosynthesis cannot serve as our primary source of energy; its greatest potential is as a supplementary source of energy.

Furthermore, there is a huge difference between what can be achieved on a micro-scale in a laboratory and the continuous production of hundreds of thousands of tons of energy such as hydrogen for general human needs. We haven’t made it this far yet.

Still, photosynthesis is a fascinating process to which we owe the existence of life as we know it. We believe that the inclusion of purely plant ingredients in Mana—as efficient harvesters of sun energy—makes good sense. Not only is Mana a healthy and nutritionally complete food, it’s a food that helps make our planet a better place for future generations.


Sources:

[1] A. Callahan, H. Leonard, T.Powell (2020) Nutrition: Science and Everyday Application.
https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/nutritionscience/chapter/3b-photosynthesis-and-metabolism/

[2] Aparna Vidyasagar. What Is Photosynthesis
https://www.livescience.com/51720-photosynthesis.html

[3] S. Kosourov, M. Jokel, Eva-Mari Aro, Y. Allahverdiyeva (2018) A new approach for sustained and efficient H2 photoproduction by Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
https://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2018/EE/C8EE00054A#!divAbstract

[4] K. P. Sokol, W. E. Robinson, J. Warnan, N. Kornienko, M. M. Nowaczyk, A. Ruff, J. Z. Zhang, E. Reisner (2018) Bias-free photoelectrochemical water splitting with photosystem II on a dye-sensitized photoanode wired to hydrogenase.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-018-0232-y

[5] ScienceNewsforStudents.org (2018) Scientists look to hack photosynthesis for a ‘greener’ planet.
https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/scientists-look-hack-photosynthesis-greener-planet

[6] S. Kosourov, M. Jokel, Eva-Mari Aro, Y. Allahverdiyeva (2018) A new approach for sustained and efficient H2 photoproduction by Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
https://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2018/EE/C8EE00054A#!divAbstract

[7] ocean.si.edu. What are fossil fuels?
https://ocean.si.edu/conservation/gulf-oil-spill/what-are-fossil-fuels

[8] M. S. W. Hodgskiss, Peter W. Crockford, Y. Peng, B. A. Wing, T. J. Horner (2019) A productivity collapse to end Earth’s Great Oxidation.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6717284/