The effect of light intensity on the amount of chlorophyll in “Cicer arietinum”

Extended Essay

Biology (SL)

“The effect of light intensity on the amount of chlorophyll in “Cicer

Word count: 4 413 words


Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………… 2
Introduction ………………………………………………………………………….. 3
Hypothesis …………………………………………………………………………… 3
Description ..………………………………………………………………………….. 8
Results ……………………………………………………………………………….. 10
Discussion ……………………………………………………………………..…….. 14
Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………..….. 14
Evaluation of the method ………………………………………………………..…… 15
Bibliography …………………………………………………………………………. 16
Plants, growing on the shaded area has less concentrated green color
and are much longer and thinner than plants growing on the sun areas as
they are dark green, short and thick. Research question was: “How does the
amount of chlorophyll-a and chlorophyll-b, gram per gram of plant, depends
on the light intensity in which plants are placed?”
Hypothesis suggests that there are several inner and outer factors
that affect the amount of chlorophylls a and b in plants and that with the
increase of light intensity the amount of chlorophyll will also increase
until light intensity exceeds the value when the amount of destructed
chlorophylls is greater than formatted thus decreasing the total amount of
chlorophylls in a plant.
The seeds of Cicer arietinum were divided into seven groups and
placed into various places with different values of light intensities.
Light intensities were measured with digital colorimeter. After three weeks
length was measured. Then plants were cut and quickly dried. Their biomass
was also measured. Three plants from each group were grinded and the
ethanol extract of pigments was prepared. The amount of chlorophylls was
measured using method of titration and different formulas.
The investigation showed that plants growing on the lowest light
intensity equal 0 lux contained no chlorophyll and had the longest length.
The amount of chlorophyll quickly increased and length decreased with the
increase of light intensity from 0 lux to 1200 lux. The amount of
chlorophyll in plants unpredictably decreased during light intensity equal
to 142 lux and than continued increasing and didn’t start decreasing
reaching very high value (1200 lux).
The sudden decrease happened due to mighty existence of some inner
genetical damages of seeds which prevented them from normal chlorophyll
synthesis and predicted decrease didn’t decrease because extremely high
light intensity was not exceeded.
Word count: 300 words

I. Introduction.
This theme seemed to be attractive for me because I could see that
results of my investigation could find application in real life.
While walking in the forest in summer I saw lots of plants of
different shades of green color: some of them were dark green, some were
light green and some even very-very light green with yellow shades, hence I
became very interested in this situation and wanted to know why it happens
to be so. I also saw that those plants that were growing on sunny parts of
forest, where trees were not very high, had dark green color and those,
that were growing in shady parts of the same forest had very light green
color. They also had difference in their length and thickness – those, that
were growing on light were very short, but thick and strong, and those,
growing in shady regions were very thin and fragile.
Hence I became very interested in finding scientifical description of
my observations.
The aim of my project is to find out how does the changes in light
intensity affect balance of chlorophyll in Cicer arietinum.

II. Hypothesis.

There are several factors that affect the development of chlorophyll
in plants.[1]
Inner factors. The most important one is – genetical potential of a
plant, because sometimes happen mutations that follow in inability of
chlorophyll formation. But most of the times it happens that the process of
chlorophyll synthesis is broken only partly, revealing in absence of
chlorophyll only in several parts of the plant or in general low rate of
chlorophyll. Therefore plants obtain yellowish color. Lots of genes
participate in the process of chlorophyll synthesis, therefore different
anomalies are widely represented. Development of chloroplasts depends on
nuclear and plastid DNA and also on cytoplasmatic and chloroplastic
Full provision of carbohydrates seem to be essential for chlorophyll
formation, and those plants that suffer from deficit of soluble
carbohydrates may not become green even if all other conditions are
perfect. Such leaves, placed into sugar solution normally start to form
chlorophyll. Very often it happens that different viruses prevent
chlorophyll formation, causing yellow color of leaves.
Outside factors. The most important outside factors, affecting the
formation of chlorophyll are: light intensity, temperature, pH of soil,
provision of minerals, water and oxygen. Synthesis of chlorophyll is very
sensitive to all the factors, disturbing metabolic processes in plants.
Light. Light is very important for the chlorophyll formation, though some
plants are able to produce chlorophyll in absolute darkness. Relatively low
light intensity is rather effective for initialization and speeding of
chlorophyll development. Green plants grown in darkness have yellow color
and contain protochlorophyll – predecessor of chlorophyll а, which needs
lite to restore until chlorophyll а. Very high light intensity causes the
destruction of chlorophyll. Hence chlorophyll is synthesized and destructed
both at the same time. In the condition of very high light intensity
balance is set during lower chlorophyll concentration, than in condition of
low light intensity.
Temperature. Chlorophyll synthesis seems to happen during rather broad
temperature intervals. Lots of plants of умеренной зоны synthesize
chlorophyll from very low temperatures till very high temperatures in the
mid of the summer. Many pine trees loose some chlorophyll during winters
and therefore loose some of their green color. It may happen because the
destruction of chlorophyll exceeds its formation during very low
Provision with minerals. One of the most common reason for shortage of
chlorophyll is absence of some important chemical elements. Shortage of
nitrogen is the most common reason for lack of chlorophyll in old leaves.
Another one is shortage of ferrum, mostly in young leaves and plants. And
ferrum is important element for chlorophyll synthesis. And magnesium is a
component of chlorophyll therefore its shortage causes lack of production
of chlorophyll.
Water. Relatively low water stress lowers speed of chlorophyll synthesis
and high dehydration of plants tissues not only disturbs synthesis of
chlorophyll, but even causes destruction of already existing molecules.
Oxygen. With the absence of oxygen plants do not produce
chlorophyll even on high light intensity. This shows that aerobic
respiration is essential for chlorophyll synthesis.

Chlorophyll.[2] The synthesis of chlorophyll is induced by light.
With light, a gene can be transcripted and translated in a protein.
The plants are naturally blocked in the conversion of protochlorophyllide
to chlorophyllide. In normal plants these results in accumulation of a
small amount of protochlorophyllide which is attached to holochrome
protein. In vivo at least two types of protochlorophyllide holochrome are
present. One, absorbing maximally at approximately 650 nm, is immediately
convertible to chlorophyllide on exposure to light. If ALA is given to
plant tissue in the dark, it feeds through all the way to
protochlorophyllide, but no further. This is because POR, the enzyme that
converts protochlorophyllide to chlorophyllide, needs light to carry out
its reaction. POR is a very actively researched enzyme worldwide and a lot
is known about the chemistry and molecular biology of its operation and
regulation. Much less is known about how POR works in natural leaf

ALA Portoporphyrine



Chlorophyll b Chlorophyll a

Chlorophyll[3] is a green compound found in leaves and green stems of
plants. Initially, it was assumed that chlorophyll was a single compound
but in 1864 Stokes showed by spectroscopy that chlorophyll was a mixture.
If dried leaves are powdered and digested with ethanol, after concentration
of the solvent, 'crystalline' chlorophyll is obtained, but if ether or
aqueous acetone is used instead of ethanol, the product is 'amorphous'
In 1912, Willstatter et al. (1) showed that chlorophyll was a mixture
of two compounds, chlorophyll-a and chlorophyll-b:

Chlorophyll-a (C55H72MgN4O5, mol. wt.: 893.49). The methyl group marked
with an asterisk is replaced by an aldehyde in chlorophyll-b (C55H70MgN4O6,
mol. wt.: 906.51).

The two components were separated by shaking a light petroleum
solution of chlorophyll with aqueous methanol: chlorophyll-a remains in the
light petroleum but chlorophyll-b is transferred into the aqueous methanol.
Cholorophyll-a is a bluish-black solid and cholorophyll-b is a dark green
solid, both giving a green solution in organic solutions. In natural
chlorophyll there is a ratio of 3 to 1 (of a to b) of the two components.
The intense green colour of chlorophyll is due to its strong
absorbencies in the red and blue regions of the spectrum, shown in fig. 1.
(2) Because of these absorbencies the light it reflects and transmits
appears green.


Fig. 1 — The uv/visible adsorption spectrum for chlorophyll.

Due to the green colour of chlorophyll, it has many uses as dyes and
pigments. It is used in colouring soaps, oils, waxes and confectionary.
Chlorophyll's most important use, however, is in nature, in
photosynthesis. It is capable of channelling the energy of sunlight into
chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis. In this process the
energy absorbed by chlorophyll transforms carbon dioxide and water into
carbohydrates and oxygen:

CO2 + H2O [pic](CH2O) + O2

Note: CH2O is the empirical formula of carbohydrates.

The chemical energy stored by photosynthesis in carbohydrates drives
biochemical reactions in nearly all living organisms.
In the photosynthetic reaction electrons are transferred from water to
carbon dioxide, that is carbon dioxide is reduced by water. Chlorophyll
assists this transfer as when chlorophyll absorbs light energy, an electron
in chlorophyll is excited from a lower energy state to a higher energy
state. In this higher energy state, this electron is more readily
transferred to another molecule. This starts a chain of electron-transfer
steps, which ends with an electron being transferred to carbon dioxide.
Meanwhile, the chlorophyll which gave up an electron can accept an electron
from another molecule. This is the end of a process which starts with the
removal of an electron from water. Thus, chlorophyll is at the centre of
the photosynthetic oxidation-reduction reaction between carbon dioxide and

Treatment of cholorophyll-a with acid removes the magnesium ion
replacing it with two hydrogen atoms giving an olive-brown solid,
phaeophytin-a. Hydrolysis of this (reverse of esterification) splits off
phytol and gives phaeophorbide-a. Similar compounds are obtained if
chlorophyll-b is used.


Chlorophyll can also be reacted with a base which yields a series of
phyllins, magnesium porphyrin compounds. Treatment of phyllins with acid
gives porphyrins.


Now knowing all these factors affecting the synthesis and destruction
of chlorophyll I propose that the amount of chlorophyll in plant depends on
light intensity in the following way: with the increase of light intensity
the amount of chlorophyll increases, but then it starts decreasing because
light intensity exceed the point when there is more chlorophyll destructed
than formed.



. Light intensity, lux
. pH of soil
. water supply, ml
. temperature, to C
. length, cm
. amount of chlorophyll in gram of a plant, gram per gram

III. Method.

. seeds of Cicer arietinum
. 28 plastic pots
. water
. scissors
. ruler (20 cm ( 0.05 cm)
. CaCO3
. soil (adopted for home plants)
. digital luxmeter (( 0.05 lux)
. test tubes
. H2SO4 (0.01 M solution)
. Pipette (5 cm3 ( 0.05 cm3)
. mortar and pestle
. burette
. ethanol (C2H5OH), 98%
. beakers

Firstly I went to the shop and bought germinated seeds of Cicer
arietinum. Then sorted seeds and chose the strongest ones. After that I
prepared soil for them and put them in it.
As the aim of this project is to investigate the dependence of mass of
chlorophyll in plants during different light intensities it was needed to
create those various conditions. Pots with seeds were placed into the
following places: in the wardrobe with doors (light intensity is o lux),
under the sink (light intensity is 20,5 lux), in the shell of bookcase
(light intensity is 27,5 lux), above the bookcase (light intensity is 89,5
lux), above the extractor (light intensity is 142 lux), beyond the curtains
(light intensity is 680 lux) and on the open sun (light intensity is 1220
lux). Light intensity was measured with the help of digital luxmeter. It
was measured four times each day: morning, midday, afternoon, evening.
During those four periods four measurements were done and the maximum value
was taken into consideration and written down. Those measurements lasted
for three weeks of the experiment as the whole time of the experiment was
three weeks. The luxmeter’s sensitive part was placed on the plants (so it
was just lying on them) in order to measure light intensity flowing
directly on plant bodies, then two minutes were left in order to get
stabilized value of light intensity and the same procedure was repeated.
All those actions were done in order to get more accurate results of light
Growing plants were provided with the same amount of water (15 ml, once a
day in the morning) and they were situated in the same room temperature
(20o C), pH of soil was definitely the same because all the plants were put
in the same soil (special soil for room flowers).
After three weeks past the length of plants was measured with the help of
ruler. Firstly the plants were not cut, so their length had to be measured
while they were in the pots. The ruler was placed into the pot and plants
were carefully stretched on it. The action was repeated three times and
only maximum value was taken into consideration. After that plants were
cut. Then those already cut plants were put into the dark place and quickly
I have chosen three plants from each light intensity group and measured
their weight. . In order to obtain the pigments, three plants were cut into
small pieces and placed in a mortar. Calcium carbonate was then added,
together with a little ethanol (2 cm3). The leaf was grinded using a pestle
until no large pieces of leaf tissue were left, and the remaining ethanol
was poured into the mortar (3 cm3). Then 1 ml of obtained solution was
placed into the test tube and this 1 ml of solution was then titrated
against 0.01 M solution of sulfuric acid, through the use of a pipette. The
titration was complete when the green solution turned dark olive-green[4].
This solution obtained from the first action was stored as the etalon for
the following ones. The settled olive-green coloring meant that all
chlorophyll had reacted with H2SO4. So the process of titration was
repeated 7 times for all light intensity groups.
The solution is titrated until the dark olive-green color because it is
known that when the reaction between chlorophyll and sulfuric acid happens,
chlorophyll turns into phaeophetin which has grey color (see table 1),
therefore when the solution is olive-green, than the reaction has
succeeded. But while searching in the internet and books I found out that
there are several opinions about the color of phaeophytin – in the book
written by Viktorov it is ssaid to have grey color, but in the internet
link it is said to
have brown olive-green color. Also I made chromatography in order to
investigate the color of phaeophytin and the result was that it has grey
color. It can be proposed that olive-green color is obtained because grey
phaeophetyn is mixed with other plant pigments.
So titration is one of the visual methods that can be used in order to
find the mass of chlorophyll in plants.
All the measurements and even chromatography were done three times and
the mean value was taken, for chromatography grey color was confirmed.

Table 1. Plant pigments.

|Name of the pigment |Color of the pigment |
|Chlorophylls ( a and b ) |Green |
|Carotene |Orange |
|Xanitophyll |Yellow |
|Phaeophytin-a |OLIVE BROUN or GREY |

IV. Results.

Table 2. Raw data.

|Number of |Light intensity (lux) |
|plant | |
|0 |0,273 |0,041 |84,98 |41,89 |0,0000 |
|20,5 |0,579 |0,056 |90,33 |41,76 |0,0496 |
|27,5 |0,332 |0,033 |90,06 |36,33 |0,1462 |
|89,5 |0,181 |0,018 |90,06 |19,81 |0,1769 |
|142 |0,511 |0,047 |90,80 |41,33 |0,0697 |
|680 |0,338 |0,043 |87,28 |29,33 |0,1557 |
|1220 |0,301 |0,034 |88,70 |18,64 |0,1939 |


Calculation of amount of chlorophyll in plants basing on the results of

H2 SO4 + C56 O5 N4 Mg => C56 O5 N4 H + MgSO4
Concentration of H2SO4 is 0,01 M
C – concentration
V – volume
n – quantity of substancy
m – mass
Mr – molar mass

For light intensity equal to 20,5 lux.
n = V (in dm3) ? C
2 ? 10-3 ? 0,01 = 2 ? 10-5
n = m / Mr => m = n ? Mr
m = 2 ? 10-5 ? 832 = 1,664 ? 10-2 grams
mass of plant mass of chlorophyll
1,68 grams — 0,08335 grams of
1 gram — x grams of
Hence there are 0,0496 grams of chlorophyll.

Table 5. The correlation between mean length of plants and mean dry

| | | | | | | |

| | | | | | | |


Table 6. The correlation between mean length and mass of chlorophyll per 1
g of plant.

Site |Mean length, cm |Rank (R1) |Mass of chl. In 1 g |Rank (R2) |D (R1-
R2) |D^2 | |1 |41,89 |1 |0,0000 |7 |-6 |36 | |2 |41,76 |2 |0,0496 |6 |-4
|16 | |3 |36,33 |4 |0,1462 |4 |0 |0 | |4 |19,81 |6 |0,1769 |2 |4 |16 | |5
|41,33 |3 |0,0697 |5 |-2 |4 | |6 |29,33 |5 |0,1557 |3 |2 |4 | |7 |18,64 |7
|0,1939 |1 |6 |36 | | | | | | | | | |
Rs = -1

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |


Table 7. The correlation between mean dry biomass and mass of chlorophyll
per 1 g of plant.

Site |Mean dry biomass, g |Rank (R1) |Mass of chl. In 1 g |Rank (R2) |D
(R1-R2) |D^2 | |1 |0,041 |4 |0,0000 |7 |-3 |9 | |2 |0,056 |1 |0,0496 |6 |-5
|25 | |3 |0,033 |6 |0,1462 |4 |2 |4 | |4 |0,018 |7 |0,1769 |2 |5 |25 | |5
|0,047 |2 |0,0697 |5 |-3 |9 | |6 |0,043 |3 |0,1557 |3 |0 |0 | |7 |0,034 |5
|0,1939 |1 |4 |16 | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |Rs = -0,57 | | | | | |
| |

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |


V. Discussion.
Several tendencies can be clearly seen.
For the first, with the increase of light intensity mean length of
plants is decreasing, but there are exceptions. For light intensity 142 lux
the value of mean length is approximately equal to the values of length for
light intensities 0 lux and 20,5 lux. If exclude this data it is also seen
that for light intensity equal to 680 lux mean length is also slightly
falling out from the main tendency – decreasing from 19.81 cm.
The second tendency is increase of mass of chlorophyll per 1 gram of
plant biomass with the increase of light intensity. But the values of mass
of chlorophyll of those plants under light intensities 142 lux and 680 lux
are falling out from the main tendency. The first and the second ones are
too small – approximately equal to the value corresponding to 20.5 lux
light intensity and to 89.5 lux respectively. This may happen because not
all the seeds of Cicer arietnum were of the same quality, because it is
impossible to guarantee that more than 250 seeds in one box have the same
high quality. At the mean time it was expected that starting from the light
intensity more than 680 lux the amount of chlorophyll in plants will
decrease, because the value of destructed chlorophyll with be bigger than
the value of newly formatted. But the experiments showed that the amount of
chlorophyll was constantly increasing even when the light intensity level
exceeded the point 1220 lux. This could happen because light intensity
equal to 1220 lux is not so extremely high that the amount of total
chlorophyll in plants will start decreasing.
Also it is clearly seen that there are no correlations between light
intensity and values of wet and dry biomass.
Basing on these arguments the sudden decrease of the amount of
chlorophyll in plants placed on light intensity equal to 142 lux was likely
to be insignificant and could not be considered as a trend.
But it is impossible to forget such important factor as plant hormones
that affect the growth and development of plants. There are five generally
accepted types of hormones that influence plant growth and development.
They are: auxin, cytokinin, gibberellins, abscic acid, and ethylene. It is
not one hormone that directly influences by sheer quantity. The balance and
ratios of hormones present is what helps to influence plant reactions. The
hormonal balance possibly regulates enzymatic reactions in the plant by
amplifying them.

VI. Conclusion.
Due to results of my investigation it is seen that my hypothesis
didn’t confirm fully (for example, comparing the diagram 1 and diagram 7),
because I proposed that when light intensities will be very high, mass of
chlorophyll in plant will start decreasing and due to my observations it
didn’t happen. I should say that the only reason I can suggest is that I
haven’t investigated such extremely high light intensities, so that
chlorophyll start destructing. But if we will not pay attention to that
fact the other part of my hypothesis was confirmed and mass of chlorophyll
in plants increased with the increase of light intensity. Furthermore I
didn’t estimate amount of plant hormones and so didn’t estimate their
influence on results.

Questions for further investigation:
1. Investigating very high light intensities.
2. Implementation of colorimetric analysis.
3. Paying attention to estimation of plant hormones level.

Those questions should be further investigated in order to get clearer
picture and more accurate results of the dependence of the amount of
chlorophyll in plants on the light intensity, knowing the fact that the
amount of chlorophyll has a tendency to decrease at extremely high light
intensities. So this statement needs an experimental confirmation and as in
this investigation conditions with extremely light intensity were not
created in further investigations they have to be created.
Implementation of colorimetric analysis is also very important thing,
because it gives much more accurate results comparing with the titration
method. The colorimetric method suggests that as different pigments absorb
different parts of light spectrum differently, the absorbance of a pigments
mixture is a sum of individual absorption spectra. Therefore the quantity
of each individual pigment in a mixture can be calculated using absorbance
of the certain colors and molecular coefficients of each pigment. This was
proposed by D. A. Sims, and J. A. Gamon (California State University,
USA)[5] with the reference on Lichtenthaler (1987).

VII. Evaluation.
There are several results in my work, that are falling out from the
main tendencies. It may seem that such results may occur due to different
percentage of water in plants, but when I was calculating mass of
chlorophyll in 1 gram of plant I was using only values of mean dry biomass
so it couldn’t affect my results. (see table 3)
At the same time such differences in the percentage of water are
easily explained. The rate of evaporation of water from plants, which were
put under 1220 lux light intensity was much higher than of those put under
20.5 lux light intensity, therefore percentage of water in the soil may
vary, though I provided all the plants with the same volume of water at the
same periods of time.
One more reason that could be proposed is the reason connected with
the pH of water with which flowers were provided. It was not measured but
the thing that could have happened is that it had somehow changed the pH of
soil in which seeds were placed and therefore changed the amount of
synthesized chlorophyll.
Titration is not a perfect way of obtaining results. This happens
because the method is based on visual abilities of a person – he has to
decide whether the color he obtained is dark olive-green or not so dark
olive-green. Such a situation concerns lots of mistakes due to different
optical abilities of each person, even some humans are not able to
distinguish those colors, because of the disease called Daltonism.
Even those who do not suffer from this disease can also make mistakes
in such experiment. It is known that people who suffer from Myopia can
hardly see objects that are far from them, but don’t have problems with
objects that are near, but it is also important to take into consideration
the fact that their ability to distinguish colors is also lower comparing
with humans with normal eyesight.
There also exist the so called human factor, which also affects the
investigation. Man can’t be absolutely objective, because sometimes it is
too hard for a person to falsify his own theory or hypothesis, so one can
ignore results that are not suitable for his statements and select only
those that are suitable, which will also affect the investigation not in
good way.
So as human’s eye is not a perfect instrument and humans are not
perfectly objective there should be other methods of investigating the
amount of chlorophyll in plant.
Moreover titration method doesn’t distinguish between chlorophylls-a
and chlorophyll-b, phaeophytin-a and phaeophytin-b, as their colors differ,
this giving not very accurate results. Also due to this limiting factor it
is impossible to know whether the whole amount of chlorophyll reacted with
the sulfuric acid and again it adds an uncertainty to the results.
Furthermore the saturation of color depends on the extent of dilution and
it is nearly impossible to say if the solution was diluted till the same
color or not, because it is very difficult to distinguish between different
shades of olive green color.


1) Allott, Biology for IB diploma (standard and higher level), Oxford
University Press, ISBN 0-19914818
2) M. Roberts, M. Reisse, G. Monger, Biology: principles and approaches,
Nelson, ISBN 0-17-44-8176-4
3) T. King, M. Reiss, M. Roberts, Practical advanced biology, Nelson
Thorns, ISBN 0-170448308-
4) Викторов Д. П., Практикум по физиологии растений. – 2-е изд.
– Воронеж: ВГУ, 1991
P2/genechloro.doc, 15/03/2004
6) 05/05/2004
7), 16/03/2004
8), 22/02/2004
9) 17/04/2004
10), 11/04/2004
11) 02/04/2004

[1] 02/04/2004

[2] 06/05/2004
[3] 11/04/2004
[4] 8:B>@>2 . ., @0:B8:C< ?> D878>;>388 Викторов Д. П., Практикум по
физиологии растений. – 2-е изд. – Воронеж: ВГУ, 1991, p.66
[5] 05/05/2004

Chlorophyll, gram per gram of plant.

Light intensity, lux

Diagram 1. The predicted change of amount of chlorophyll in leaves of
depending on light intensity

0,57<0,79, therefore there is no significant correlation between mean
length of plants and mean dry biomass.




There is negative correlation between mean length of plants and mass of
chlorophyll per 1 g of plant

0,57<0,79, therefore there is no significant correlation between mean dry
biomass and mass of chlorophyll per МD[pic]НD[pic]1 g of plant

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