soda bubbles without CO2?
December 13, 2008 10:57 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to make bubbles in drinkable soda with something other than CO2? Nitrogen? Oxygen? Nitrous Oxide? Helium? If not, why?
posted by puppy kuddles to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah you could use nitrogen. Many beers are nitrogenated.
posted by Science! at 11:11 PM on December 13, 2008

Carbonation provides a very specific taste -- a "bite" owing to the acidity of carbonic acid (H2C03, formed from CO2 dissolved in H20). That's why flat soda tastes sickly sweet.

You would not achieve the same bite with inert nitrogen or helium. Plus helium is expensive. Oxygen would obviously be dangerous. Nitrous Oxide, hmm, that would be fun.
posted by randomstriker at 11:42 PM on December 13, 2008

Because they're not soluble in water. In carbonation, the CO2 reacts with water to form carbonic acid (H2C03) which dissolves in the water. Carbonic acid is very soluble and water will take quite a lot of it.

The other things you're talking about are nothing like as soluble, by orders of magnitude at normal atmospheric pressure.

Nitrogen will dissolve in water in reasonable quantities but only if the pressure is very high. That's the reason for Nitrogen Narcosis, and the bends.
posted by Class Goat at 11:48 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, I think the equilibrium between carbon dioxide and carbonic acid allows much greater carbonation per unit pressure.

There is a cafe in Chicago that nitrous acid in, I think, a cup of coffee. The story is if you gulp it down you can get mildly high, although the person who told me this admitted to sharing sips with a friend and therefore couldn't attest to the high personally.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:50 PM on December 13, 2008

Um, so Class Goat got my first line, and my second line should obviously read nitrous oxide rather than acid.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:51 PM on December 13, 2008

They do all have a unique taste, as randomstriker says (but, O2 can be done, and He can be done but of course at a large scale is expensive). Besides taste, the bubbliness is affected by Henry's Law, which mathematically defines the equilibrium solubility of a liquid in a gas.
posted by whatzit at 11:56 PM on December 13, 2008

Nitrous oxide works to a degree. I know this because my dad used to have one of those "soda seltzer" makers. Basically, you filled it with water, and then screwed a little pressurized CO2 cartridge into the side, and "whooosh" it made fizzy water. The company also made a version which made whipped cream. One New Year's Eve, my dad accidentally bought a box of the "Cream" cartridges, instead of the "Soda" cartridges. I think he made doled out two bottles worth of drinks from it before realizing his mistake.

No, it didn't make anyone high/silly to any noticeable degree, and reportedly didn't taste that bad. (I was in high school, so I wasn't drinking obviously)

So... short answer: nitrous works, but I have no idea how it tastes or if it has any side effects.
posted by bitshift at 6:54 PM on December 14, 2008

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