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How to Keep Fizz in Your Soda

Explore the properties of carbon dioxide in your soda pop.

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Rarely do you ever drink an entire 2-liter bottle of soda at one sitting. Since leftovers are inevitable, the soda tends to go flat. Besides screwing on the cap, is there anything that can be done to keep the fizz in a bottle of soda?

Materials
  • Wintergreen Lifesavers
  • 2-liter bottle of soda
  • Clean, empty soda bottle (1-liter or smaller works best)
  • Fizz Keeper (or a similar pressurizing pump)
  • Small, fresh marshmallows
Print Experiment

Experiment

You don't have to shake a soda in order to produce a flowing, foaming river of scientific inquiry.

  1. Open a brand new 2-liter bottle of soda and drop in three or four Wintergreen Lifesavers. Oh, by the way, stand back! The dissolved carbon dioxide gas makes a mad dash for the breath mints (lots of nuclei sites--see below) and forms big bubbles that burst out of the liquid. Please remember that this is not a way to keep the soda from going flat. This little gem of an activity actually speeds up the bubbling process. But isn't science fun?

BONUS FIZZ KEEPER ACTIVITY

Here's a great activity to explore the properties of air pressure (and it will keep the kids busy for hours!):

  1. Fill the bottom of the empty bottle with marshmallows (a dozen or so). Screw the pump on the bottle.
  2. Carefully observe the marshmallows as you start pumping the piston up and down. Hey, they're shrinking! The marshmallows are shriveling up. Why? The Fizz Keeper is like a miniature bicycle pump that forces molecules of air into the bottle. The increased pressure, in turn, pushes on the marshmallows. Since marshmallows are just puffy pockets of air, the increased pressure compacts the molecules and the marshmallows shrivel up.
  3. Release the pressure by unscrewing the cap, but don't take your eyes off the marshmallows. Let's just say the rapid decompression is well worth all of the effort of pumping!

What else might work in place of marshmallows? Are all gases compressible? Can you compress a liquid using the pump? Notice the change in temperature of the bottle when you're pumping the piston. Why does the bottle get warmer? Does the bottle temperature drop when the pressure is released?

How Does It Work?

There are really three factors that you should keep in mind when searching for the ultimate solution to the fizz factor dilemma:

Reactions with Carbon Dioxide Lucky for soda drinkers, carbon dioxide gas easily dissolves in water forming carbonic acid. That's what gives soda a tangy taste. The goal is to keep the molecules from escaping. Everyone knows that shaking a soda makes it explode (what fun!). Why? In order to escape, the molecules have to find some rallying points, some unique meeting places at which they can congregate and form groups (bubbles) that are big enough to push their way up and out of the bottle. Scientists refer to these congregation sites as nuclei. Shaking a soda allows it to mix with air molecules trapped in the bottle. These air bubbles are the best possible nuclei for the further growth of bubbles. Carbon dioxide molecules latch onto the air molecules, which grow bigger and bigger. And before you know it, the foaming mess is out of control. In other words, if you want to keep your soda from going flat, don't shake it. Duhhh!

Pressure At first glance, this part of the equation makes the most sense. Here's what we know... the higher the gas pressure above the liquid in the bottle, the more gas will be pressed into the liquid. Makes sense. However, here's the kicker. Once you open the bottle, the vast majority of the carbon dioxide molecules that were forced into the soda at the bottling plant come flying out. It's that unmistakable sound of PSSSSST!

What about those gadgets called Fizz Keepers (you know, those pumps sold at the grocery store that supposedly re-pressurize the soda)? Do they work? When you pump the piston up and down, you're pumping plain old air (mainly oxygen and nitrogen) into the bottle. However, scientists tell us that the escaping gas can be pushed back into the liquid only by forcing more molecules of that particular gas (in this case carbon dioxide) into the space above the liquid. In reality, there isn't one more molecule of carbon dioxide in the liquid after pumping the Fizz Keeper gadget than if you had simply screwed the cap on tight. You guessed it, the gadget is just a glorified soda bottle cap. Yes, it gives you that satisfying PSSSSST! sound, but that's all it does. So, in terms of pressure, there's not much that can be done.

Temperature Let's cut to the chase. The secret to keeping your soda alive with plenty of reusable fizz is to keep the soda cold, plain and simple. The higher the temperature, the less the carbon dioxide molecules will dissolve. (By the way, try letting the bottle of soda sit out in the sun before dropping in the breath mints and watch out!) It's especially important to keep the bottle tightly sealed while it is out of the refrigerator since the higher temperature makes the gas want to leave the liquid. Pour yourself a glass of refreshing soda, cap the bottle, and put it right back in the refrigerator. Keep it cold... keep the fizz.

Source Information: If you find this sort of stuff interesting, you'll want to rush out and pick up a copy of What Einstein Didn't Know by Robert Wolke. The book is packed full of great information that is sure to get your creative ideas flowing.

Customer Reviews

Your both wrong! Review by Ricky Peters (A/C & Ref. Tech)
43211

Fizz keepers do work to an extent, and keeping soda cold does keep it carbonated longer. Fizz keepers are not designed to re-carbonate the drinks. They are designed to keep the remaining CO2 from filling the empty space in the bottle. If what you said was true about all the carbonation escaping when you open the bottle, the remainder would be flat instantly. Sodas go flat from escaping gas when opened and when expanding to fill the void in the bottle. If you pressurize the void with air, the CO2 is forced to remain in the liquid. When the bottle is opened, air and CO2 are released, keeping more in the bottle. Don't believe me, try this. Take a half empty bottle and squeeze all the gas out. You fill find later that the bottle is filled again completely. There is a balance of pressure that needs to be in place to retain carbonation. The reason cold drinks stay carbonated longer is because the condensed gas has less pressure, so less gas escapes when you open the bottle.

(Posted on December 30, 2009)

Are you sure? Review by Julie
21321

I think you're wrong about keeping soda cold to keep it from going flat. When the soda is cold, the air molecules compress, so there is essentially more free volume to be filled, so more gas leaves the soda to go to the lower pressure.

(Posted on November 8, 2009)

Nope, you're both wrong Review by 189325
54321

The reason cold drinks stay carbonated longer is because the condensed gas has less pressure, so less gas escapes when you open the bottle.

You're both wrong. The correct explanation is: Cold temperature increases the solubility of the gas in a liquid, in this case, high fructose corn syrup and water and some flavorings.

It has nothing to do with "shrinking" water molecules (I think you would need like....a cooling laser to get that low).

Although, the first commenter was somewhat right, in that cold temperature also decreases the pressure exerted by the gas, as a virtue of the decreased solubility (hence, more gas will fill the empty space between the head of the liquid and the cap of the soda bottle)

And that's why when you open a soda bottle that has been in the fridge, it seems to emit less gas than one that is at room temperature - from the fact that the SSSSSS is quieter.

I'm currently a junior at Swarthmore college, any openings for a chemistry tutor?

(Posted on March 16, 2010)

your right Review by mani
54321

I just tried the experiment the mentos and the soda one and it worked and it was totally aaawwwsssoooommmmeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Posted on September 29, 2010)

Thought provoking for young scientist Review by Brenda
54321

I hope you are teaching in high school science classes! This is a great way to make science real to those who would not otherwise be interested. I am a science geek and constantly seeking ways to make science fun. Thanks for sharing!

(Posted on June 15, 2010)

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