Which chemical reactions are considered the most important?
Processes necessary for life
We should state right away that this question is very much a rhetorical one (i.e. one to which you can spend an endless amount of time looking for an answer, without ever finding one). However, we can still try to answer it, by stating that the most important reactions in the world are the ones that are responsible for life on earth. They all take place in the organisms of living creatures. They include the following processes (note that they are not reactions, but processes, each one of which involves an enormous number of the most varied reactions):
- Respiration – cellular and non-cellular
- Biosynthesis of protein
- Fermentative processes
Again, we should clarify that any reaction that takes place in a living organism is important, but in the absence of just one of the processes listed above, life on the planet would be impossible. Let’s examine these processes in more detail.
This process takes place in plant cells, and its summary reaction is the following: in the interaction of water and carbon dioxide under the impact of a huge quantity of fermentative systems, the synthesis of glucose takes place and oxygen is released. In biology textbooks for the 10th grade this process is described as follows:
СO₂ + Н₂O = C₆H₁₂O₆ + O₂
This equation cannot be called accurate, as it does not take into account all of the complex biochemical reactions which cause the reaction to proceed in the way it does. Just think, if you mix carbon dioxide with water without creating special conditions that are only possible in a living organism, you won’t get anything more than fizzy water. Additionally, even with the participation of special ferments, glucose is not the only product of reaction – other organic substances also form, most of which are carbohydrates. However, for illustrative purposes this equation can be used – calculations can be carried out with it.
It is difficult to underestimate how useful this reaction is – both glucose and oxygen (a side product of reaction, by the way) have fundamental importance. If glucose is required for a plant to provide energy exchange in cells, oxygen is required by all living organisms which inhabit our planet (with the exception of anaerobes – organism which live and multiply in an oxygen-free environment). Additionally, in this reaction the concentration of carbon dioxide on the planet drops, which is also a very good thing. Destruction of plant life leads to a decrease in photosynthesis – and in its turn, this causes the greenhouse effect to develop.
Respiration – what is this process from the point of view of chemistry? In the traditional understanding, the respiration process simple involves the consumption of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide. This is essentially correct to a certain extent, but this description is highly abstract and imprecise – it ignores a huge amount of fundamentally important biochemical processes.
We must also separate the concepts of external and cellular respiration. The gaseous exchange between the human body and the environment is external respiration, while cellular respiration is the sum of an enormous number of reactions, which take place both in the presence of oxygen and without it. In any case, the goal of this respiration process is to receive energy, which cumulates in macro-energy bonds of adenosine phosphoric acid (this compound is called ATP for short).
The process of inner respiration can be presented as follows: First stage – oxygen-free, or glycolysis – from one glucose molecule, two molecules of ARP and lactic acid are formed. The second stage is with oxygen, where the splitting of lactic acid (synthesized during glycolysis) causes 36 molecules of ATP to be formed. It is logical to assume that without energy, the human body would not function – so oxygen is a vital element to life.
Biosynthesis of protein
All higher animals are essentially made of protein – a polymer which in its turn consists of a large amount of amino acids. The synthesis of proteins includes a huge amount of reactions which takes place thanks to ribosomes, mRNA and tRNA. This can be illustrated in the following way – thanks to different types of ribonucleic acids, amino acids are transported to ribosomes, with the subsequent attachment of monomers to the protein molecule. So if this process becomes impossible for some reason, the creation of living organisms will not be possible.
Click here to find chemical experiments for learning properties of protein.
This process involves the dissociation (breakdown) of complex molecules or ionic structures under the impact of water (it often takes place with the formation of new substances). To examine this process in the context of the article, we should note that the initial stages of digestion are also hydrolysis.
It takes place as follows: in most cases, organic compounds enter the human body – starch, cellulose, proteins, glycerin and higher fatty acids, but only monomers are absorbed in the intestine (if polymers were present before the digestion process). So we can see that for the digestion process to take place normally, it must be supplied with monomeric compounds.
Without the hydrolysis process with the splitting of complex compounds, this would be impossible.
Without biological catalysts known as enzymes, any metabolic process would take place a hundred or a thousand times more slowly – the metabolism would slow down enormously. But with enzymes (if they display normal activity) everything takes place precisely and within set timeframes.
All chemical reactions are significant, but the ones in these examples are vital to maintain life on earth. The entire organism relies on them!