ELi5 : How are carbonated drinks made? How does your body react when someone drink carbonated drinks?


ELi5 : How are carbonated drinks made? How does your body react when someone drink carbonated drinks?

In: Chemistry

Carbonation is really when you jam carbon dioxide into water under enough pressure that it creates a new unstable chemical called carbonic acid, basically combining a carbon dioxide molecule (one carbon and two oxygen atoms) and a water molecule (two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms) into a rather unstable two-hydrogen, one carbon and three oxygen molecules.

The instability of the molecule means it breaks apart naturally over time once you release the pressure. That’s why a poured glass of soda or champagne eventually goes flat. Or if you bang it hard or pour it rapidly, it “shocks” a lot of the molecules into separating, and this forms a big head of bubbles of carbon dioxide coming out of the now-broken molecules.

So to make it, they hook up a tank of carbon dioxide that’s under pressure with a tank of (flavoured) water and let the two combine for a while, and then gently seal the resulting liquid in a screw-top bottle or can so it stays under pressure. There’s variations of this, but they all have pressurized carbon dioxide at their core.

How does it affect you?

When you drink it, you’re really shocking a lot of that carbonic acid by flowing the fluid containing it along surfaces in your body, so it turns quite fast into water (which you drink with the rest of the water) and carbon dioxide (which makes you burp if you guzzle it, or you just breathe it out if you merely sip it). Any unbroken carbonic acid hitting you just gives your tongue a tangy zippy sensation – it’s quite a gentle acid – and does no harm to the body at all.

Carbonated drinks are made forcing carbon dioxide gas to dissolve into water by putting it under high pressure, then mixing that carbonated water with other ingredients.

Because it took high pressure to get the CO2 in the drink, when you open the drink and release that pressure and expose it to just normal air pressure, the CO2 that was forced in starts bubbling out of the drink.

Health impacts of carbonated drinks are that drinking a lot might not be good for your teeth/digestive system, because the carbonation (along with other ingredients depending on the drink) make it slightly to very acidic. It’s also possible that you’d experience stomach discomfort if you drank a lot very very quickly as the gas builds up in your stomach (this is why carbonated drinks make you burp).