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Bioenergetics: Definition & Theory

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  • 0:00 What Is Bioenergetics?
  • 0:51 Topics Within Bioenergetics
  • 2:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
This lesson introduces the field of bioenergetics and explains a few topics contained within this broad discipline. Students will understand that energy is required by all living things, and those living things use energy in different ways.

What Is Bioenergetics?

To begin our discussion, let's first consider a few questions. Why do trees need sunlight? Why do people need to eat? Why do living things give off heat? What makes our muscles burn during intense bouts of exercise? Now ask yourself, what do all these questions have in common?

They all have to do with the field of bioenergetics. Bioenergetics is a broad discipline of biochemistry that focuses on energy transformations within living organisms and the efficiency of energy transfers between different organisms. All living things use energy, but they use it in different ways. Consider plants and animals, for example. Plants use energy in such a manner that causes them to release oxygen as a waste product, while animals (including humans, of course) require oxygen as a component to survive.

Topics Within Bioenergetics

Since the field of bioenergetics is such a large and diverse field, it is beneficial to explore some of the topics within it. One such topic is the study of a molecule called ATP. ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is a high-energy molecule used by the body. It allows cells to move materials, maintain themselves, and undergo basic metabolism. For example, our cells regulate their levels of potassium by actively transporting potassium across their membranes with the help of ATP. Think of ATP as the energy currency of cells. Bioenergetics studies how ATP is used, created, and broken down within different types of living tissue.

Another topic in bioenergetics is photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process whereby green plants use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into sugar (as food) and oxygen (as waste). Here's what happens: the roots of the plant absorb water from the soil, and the leaves take in carbon dioxide from the air. These two elements then travel into cells called chloroplasts, which are filled with chlorophyll, which gives plants their green color. The chlorophyll takes in the sun's energy, and then uses it to convert the water into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is released back into the air, and the hydrogen combines with the carbon dioxide, creating sugar, which is food for the plant.

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