(ORDO NEWS) — Everyone knows that any plant grows out of the ground, but if you figure out where the woody substance itself comes from, then you may be surprised to learn that it appears from the air. More precisely, from the carbon dioxide that is contained in it. Let’s try to understand this in more detail.
Once this process was described in simple words by the American physicist Richard Feynman. So where does the tree come from? As you may be aware, the basis of any wood is carbon. But where does it come from in the tree? You can answer that it is from the earth and you will be wrong.
The truth is, most wood is made up of air. The tree takes some minerals from the ground – nitrogen, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, various salts – more than 50 different chemical elements in total. Plants need it for nutrition. But plants receive no more than 1/5 of the necessary substances from the ground. The rest they get out of thin air!
To understand this better, first we need to imagine how oxygen and carbon atoms interact with each other in nature.
The atoms of these two substances are arranged in such a way that, by their very nature, they “feel comfortable” together. And if they suddenly find themselves close, they always strive to unite into one whole. But if they fly next to each other at not high enough speed, then they simply push off and diverge.
Imagine a ball that you would like to roll up a hill. There is a hole at the top of this hill, like a crater, but when you do not push the ball hard enough up the hill, it cannot reach the top and rolls back down. And if you run it harder, it will overcome the barrier, roll into the hole and remain there.
This is a figurative comparison, but in general, something definitely similar happens with the oxygen and carbon atoms. Oxygen is always close to carbon, but at normal temperatures they move relative to each other at a low speed and nothing happens.
But if you try to heat these atoms, then they will begin to accelerate, they will hit each other more and more, causing vibrations and accelerations of neighboring atoms. The heat makes the other atoms move closer together, create more heat, and so on. At some moment of heating, they begin to overcome the known barrier and, at a certain collision speed, “collapse” with each other. A chain reaction begins, which is nothing more than fire.
This is exactly what happens when you bring a match to a tree. At first, the tree structure is not broken. The carbon atoms begin to vibrate, then when they get hotter, they swing harder and harder, until they finally begin to break away from their structure and collapse with oxygen atoms, causing a chain reaction.
But where did the oxygen and carbon atoms have this “attraction” for each other? As you know, photosynthesis requires two inorganic substances – carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis is divided into two stages: light and dark. During the light stage, photolysis occurs – this is the process of decay of water molecules under the influence of light energy, oxygen formed as a result of photolysis is released into the atmosphere.
That is, all that sunlight does when it shines on a tree is simply separating oxygen atoms from carbon. It kind of tears them apart. Thus, oxygen is something like a by-product that the sun throws back into the air, holding carbon with water and thereby creating woody substance, literally, as if building it from the air. Carbon and oxygen were one whole in the form of carbon dioxide, but remained separated by the heat energy radiated from the sun. This is where this attraction to each other comes from.
It turns out that everything the sun does is work to separate oxygen from carbon.
What happens when we set fire to a tree?
And when we take wood and put it in the fireplace, we, as it were, re-attach oxygen to carbon by heating and that wonderful light and heat that come out when the wood burns, this is the pure solar energy that has accumulated inside the wood and now it breaks out.
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