can organisms create their own energy

Can organisms create their own energy? No living being can survive without energy, and that energy comes from food.

Unlike humans, plants and other organisms just cannot get food from different sources. Instead, they have to produce their own food for energy.

It is possible to divide organisms into two categories – autotrophs and heterotrophs.

Organisms that can produce their own food are called autotrophs, and plants are among the most well-known autotrophs.

Yes, there are organisms that make their own energy, such as autotrophs, which use CO2, water, and solar energy to produce food and energy. 

Understanding the Very Definition of Energy

In the realm of science, the definition of energy is the capacity to perform labor.

A bird’s flight, a firefly’s brightness, and a dog’s tail wag are all examples of the energy at play in living things.

bird flying high

These are the most blatant examples of the energy consumption of living organisms, but this does not even scratch the surface of the myriad of other ways in which life consumes energy on a continual basis. 

The Importance of Energy Production in Organisms

Energy is vital for every living organism. In fact, these organisms need it for various critical functions, such as:

  • They need the energy to grow and thrive.
  • They require energy to reproduce.
  • They depend on energy to maintain their structures.
  • They utilize energy to respond to a change in environment.

Interestingly, these organisms utilize chemical energy in molecules and convert it into energy they can use for various cellular processes.

The whole process of energy conversion is known as metabolism. In humans and animals, food provides the building blocks needed for metabolism.

And this process further breaks down food into:

  • Lipids
  • Carbs
  • Nucleic acids
  • Proteins

All these nutrients provide the chemical energy required for producing energy for survival. Similarly, plants use chemical energy from the sun to initiate photosynthesis. 

The Need for Constant Energy

All organisms’ cells have a constant need for energy to maintain their functions and promote growth. 

In order to utilize them as fuel, cells must first break down complex carbs into simple sugars.

white goose and goslings in lake

For instance:

  • Muscle cells require energy to construct longer muscle proteins.
  • They utilize those proteins from simple amino acid molecules.
  • These molecules change and move around the cell, or through the entire organism.

It implies that energy is needed for both the synthesis of new molecules and their breakdown into their component parts, much like the construction and destruction of a building.

Fact: The opposite of autotrophs is heterotrophs that cannot produce their own food or energy and even eat autotrophs and other heterotrophs for food. 

Can Organisms Create Their Own Energy or Not?

Yes, it is possible for some organisms to produce their own energy.

And while most of them require solar energy to start the process, others can do it without it.

green forest and sun shining

Organisms capable of producing their own food and energy are called autotrophs.

But not all autotrophs are the same.

  • Some use solar energy to make food through a process called photosynthesis.
  • Some do not need solar energy and create their own energy through chemosynthesis

The Concept of Energy Production in Autotrophs

When talking about autotrophs that can create their own energy, plants always come to your mind.

Chloroplasts are the organelles in all plants responsible for photosynthesis, the process through which plants generate energy.

Millions of helpful structures can be found in only a quarter of an inch of leaf tissue.

green plants and sun shining

Due to these structures and a pigment called chlorophyll, you see the green color of leaves.

And the chemical reaction that creates energy using chlorophyll and other components is relatively simple.

  • The chloroplasts utilize sunlight, CO2, and water.
  • It triggers a chemical reaction and releases oxygen.

Plants perform many life-sustaining functions, and one of those is the absorption of CO2 and release of oxygen. 

But, they also do a very important step, which is vital to their existence and is equally useful for anyone who eats the plants.

That step is the production of glucose or sugar, as an aftermath of photosynthesis.

Autotrophs Creating Energy through Photosynthesis

So, can some organisms create their own energy? They surely can, and autotrophs are a good example.

In the grand scheme of things, autotrophs play an extremely important role, mainly because they are the producers and are at the top of the food chain.

tiny plant under shade

They are responsible for using energy from nonliving sources and making it usable for living organisms, including humans. 

And these autotrophs rely on solar energy, CO2, and water to trigger the process called photosynthesis, which is responsible for energy conversion.

The oxygen available in your atmosphere is primarily the result of photosynthesis.

Now, when you talk about organisms – autotrophs in particular – creating their own energy, you cannot overlook the role of chlorophyll. 

Energy Production and the Role of Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is basically a pigment found in a plant’s cell and is responsible for absorbing light. 

The green color of plants is also because of the presence of these pigments.

up close photo of a leaf

You can also divide chlorophyll into different forms, including:

  • Chlorophylls a: Mostly found in plants.
  • Chlorophylls b: Mostly present in plants as well as green algae.
  • Chlorophylls c & d: Mostly found in algae, except for green algae.
  • Chlorophylls e: Found only in golden algae.

To understand the importance of chlorophyll, you can easily compare it to hemoglobin in humans, as it is the pigment responsible for carrying oxygen around your body.

Fact: Chlorophyll makes plants green because it absorbs red and blue light waves but reflects the green. 

The Link between Energy Molecules and Energy Production

When it comes to animals that can use chemical energy and produce the energy required for cellular functions, you cannot ignore the role of energy molecules.

In most cases, organisms – autotrophs in particular – use two types of molecules to store and utilize chemical energy.

  • Glucose
  • ATP

Both these molecules have a huge role to play in the survival of these organisms because they essentially work as fuels. 

And these molecules are equally important for the successful creation of energy through photosynthesis.

Fact: When compared to an ATP molecule, a glucose molecule packs more chemical energy into a smaller "package." 


A simple carbohydrate is capable of storing chemical energy in a more concentrated yet stable form, and glucose is a perfect example of a simple carb.

Humans need glucose for energy because trillions of cells take up this stable source of energy from the blood. 

But even if you consider photosynthesis in plants, you will notice that glucose still holds an important place in the whole process.

athletes running with trees around

In fact, glucose is the byproduct of the process that plants have to initiate in order to create their own energy. 

Also, photosynthesis triggers the storage of the sun’s energy in those glucose molecules.

To retrieve energy, those molecules are broken down through cellular respiration.

Fact: Compared to ATP, glucose is more stable and superior to lipids and proteins in energy storage and transfer. 


In humans, ATP is the real currency of life, as it serves as the ultimate energy-carrying molecule.

adenosine triphosphate molecule

This molecule is responsible for storing and using energy to start a number of cellular processes, such as:

  • Protein synthesis
  • Nerve impulse conduction
  • Active transport of protein

ATP also comes into the picture even when autotrophs use photosynthesis to produce their own energy.  

Essentially, it is produced during the very first stage of photosynthesis.

But, it also plays a role during the final half of this process, especially when there is glucose to be stored and used.

Fact: ATP is often the preferred fuel source because glucose is too potent for cells to utilize, whereas the amount of energy contained in ATP is optimal for driving cellular life functions.


Can organisms create their own energy? While most living beings have to rely on external sources to produce energy, many organisms are pretty self-sufficient in this regard.

Plants, or autotrophs in general, can produce their own energy.

They do it with the help of the sun’s energy through photosynthesis, but organisms can do it even without the help of solar energy.

They have all the building blocks they need to use as food and produce energy for survival.

And in the process of creating energy for themselves, they also help other living beings in general, specifically through the release of oxygen.