The Science of Coke and Mentos

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Diet Coke and Mentos - Image by Darren Slover -Sun Journal

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How Does This Work?
Why do Diet Coke & Mentos and Coke Zero & Mentos create such exciting geysers?

It’s mostly due to a process called nucleation, where the carbon dioxide in the soda is attracted to the Mentos (they are awfully cute). That creates so much pressure that the soda goes flying. We then built nozzles that make the opening smaller and that makes the geysers go even higher.

So what is nucleation about and why do Mentos release all this pressure so spectacularly? Read on…


Making Lots of Bubbles
After a lot of debate, scientists are now saying that the primary cause of Coke & Mentos geysers is a physical reaction, not a chemical reaction. Their explanation is this process called nucleation.

All the carbon dioxide in the soda – all that fizz – is squeezed into the liquid and looking for a way out. It’s drawn to any tiny bumps that it can grab onto. Those tiny bumps are called nucleation sites: places the gas can grab onto and start forming bubbles.

Nucleation sites can be scratches on a glass, the ridges of your finger, or even specks of dust – anywhere that there is a high surface area in a very small volume.

The surface of a Mentos is sprayed with over 40 microscopic layers of liquid sugar. That makes it not only sweet but also covered with lots and lots of nucleation sites.

In other words, there are so many microscopic nooks and crannies on the surface of a Mentos that an incredible number of bubbles will form around the Mentos when you drop it into a bottle of soda.

Since the Mentos are also heavy enough to sink, they react with the soda all the way to the bottom. The escaping bubbles quickly turn into a raging foam, and the pressure builds dramatically.

All that pressure has got to go somewhere, and before you know it, you've got a big geyser happening!


Try This at Home!
This is a great thing to try yourself – if you’re careful. Here’s how. Make sure you wear your goggles and lab coats, so that you are not only protected, you also look cool as you run away from the flying soda.


The Big Question
What happens if you drink soda and then eat Mentos? Well, a lot of the fizz goes away as you drink. Then when bubbles are released in your stomach, your stomach can expand a bit. And your stomach also has ways of, umm, releasing excess gas… The MythBusters showed that your stomach won’t explode, but it still wouldn’t be a lot of fun. Do not, repeat, do not be stupid and test the limits of your stomach. Don't even think about it.


What Else Works?
We've tested everything from Mountain Dew & Lifesavers to Moxie & M&M's. Shockingly enough, dropping just about anything into just about any kind of soda creates at least a little fizz. Even some pocket change made a bottle of root beer bubble up a bit. But the combination of Coke Zero & Mentos is particularly potent!


Does It Have to be Diet?
Diet Coke and Coke Zero tend to go a bit higher than regular soda, because they have a little more carbonation and the sweeteners help make the reaction a little bigger. Most importantly, Coke Zero and Diet Coke aren’t sugary and sticky. Every time we set off a big geyser display, we get soaked to the skin, so it’s nice not to get covered in sugary goo.


Interesting Links
Thanks to Tonya Coffey at Appalachian State University in North Carolina for publishing a scientific study of Coke & Mentos in the American Journal of Physics. New Scientist has this great summary of the explanation.


Fun with Nucleation
You can learn more about nucleation sites in action if you coat the inside of a small glass with vegetable oil. Move the glass around to get a nice smooth coating of oil and then pour in some soda. What happens? No fizz. Why? No nucleation sites. Now sprinkle in some granulated sugar. What happens? Lots of fizz! Why? Lots of nucleation sites!

  • Alex Batista

    same here

  • Levi Berg

    It better work because im doing it for science fair!!!!!!!

  • darien

    me too

  • ThatRandomPerson

    Same! Lol!

  • Audrey

    this was just an experiment we did in class… and now we need to find out if it is a physical or chemical change. And then we have to write a paragraph about it.

  • Josh

    This is awesome! I have to do this for a science fair project!

  • Ryan smith

    it definitely work because it worked at school yesterday and it went about 3m in the air but it depends how many Mentos u put in it :)

  • selfiecat1

    Same here, except im trying to see if its the only way.

  • selfiecat1

    my dad says 5 mentos have the same effect as a pack.

  • selfiecat1

    good 4 year belated luck! XD

  • Shrey Pandya

    We’re making a MythBusters episode (for school) about if a bottle can blow by power of Mentos and Diet Coke.

  • Nicholas Knutson

    So am I, but its the chemical reaction between diet Coke and Mentos vs. Baking Soda and vinegar.

  • kxut

    me too

  • hugo

    How do i find out the amount of carbon dioxide in the soda?

  • camryn

    i have to do this for a science project hope it works..!!

  • 2003cah

    hi

  • yo mama

    im doing it for science fair too lol :-( i will kill every body if it does not work jk

  • Andrew

    Same

  • Rozy.freo

    It works I tried it the other day with my friend for a science project! Except we used normal coke and it went pretty high still.

  • Kate

    Me to science fair

  • TheDoctor(number 10)

    Im sorry to say, but he is wrong. Yesterday for my science experiment using diet Pepsi,diet coke, coke, and Pepsi, I dropped 4 in the first time and it barley made it out of the bottle. Then i did it again with a full pack and it shot 10 feet. Trust me im the doctor.

  • Henry Hargrave

    me too!

  • Samira Mesidor

    i hope this works

  • angel

    i doing this project to.cool

  • killa

    this looks raw but my teacher says i cant do it for a project go do it at home and post on face book

  • Chibi

    I hope this is true because i have to do it for a science fair prodject

  • Sally

    So do I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • hearts

    Doing a project hope this works
    If not I am souing

  • Lolz2.0

    Same here

  • my nigga

    hey guys

  • hater

    I FLOPPIN HATE DIS STUFF ITS FOR LOSERS D:<

  • http://poop.com human

    cool

  • cj

    vinigar and baking soda works too

  • cj

    same

  • cj

    who cares

  • bugss6

    On “Mentos are also heavy enough to sink”:
    It

  • ramses

    ha i did this as a scince project and im hoping to get an a or b

  • DoDoSid

    Work cited? I am doing it for a science project

  • Nathan

    I really thinks it’s helpful because I’m doing a science project

  • Steph S.

    Cool! I had no idea it was a physical rxn!

    (Chemistry Major)

  • Steph S.

    Yes, they are. An “explosion” is just the boom. It doesn’t matter what causes it.

  • jhvg

    my names jeff

  • John Jewel

    If this were the case of non chemical reaction then why doesn’t industry use their CO2 waste product to go through a catalytic chamber with mentos shaped pieces that act as scrubbers. They could use this for hydraulic lines or whatever.

  • Nicholas1948767213

    Never drink it

  • matt

    doing a report for it now lol

  • Aqib_963

    Awasome !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and nerdyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but mostly Awasome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have tried this at home !!!!!!!!

  • mommyfroggy

    you can use a geyser tube(it helps narrow it down

  • Jonny Bowden

    #$%& ya

  • Snowfall

    An explosion results from a chemical reaction that releases a gas (or hypothetically a liquid) at extremely high pressure. In order to maintain equilibrium (as matter will naturally move from areas of high concentration to low), the resulting high pressure gas will rapidly expand to surrounding areas, moving matter – usually atmospheric gasses- that it collides with away from the reaction site at high velocities due to the conservation of momentum (forming the blast wave) and tranfering heat to that same matter due to the laws of thermodynamics (forming the heat wave). A “boom”, whether it be defined as burst of kinetic energy or a loud sound is not required in an explosion and thus bears no indication as to whether or not an explosion has taken place. The eruption of a volcano is caused by the sudden release of a force that previously contained immense pressure. Though the eruption causes a “boom” in sense of both a loud sound and burst of kinetic energy, an eruption is not an explosion. Similarly, a few mg of nitrocellulose being ignited makes almost no sound and produces negligible kinetic energy without containment, but due to the rapid release and expansion of a gas it is still an explosion.