Cola Experiments

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    Experiment #1. Kids, imagine a cooler filled with cans of soda at a summer picnic. Did you ever notice that all the diet soda cans float on top of the ice-cold water, while the rest have to be fished out from the bottom? You can see this for yourself if you have a can each of a regular and diet soda. Put them in a large container of water like an aquarium, a cooler, or even the bathtub. Both cans are the same size but they weight different amounts because of the extra 2/3 ounce of sugar in the regular soda. It is enough to make the heavier one sink and the lighter one float on water. The cans differ in their "density", which is the amount of mass in a certain size. Mass is the amount of matter in a body (an astronaut weighs less on the moon but has the same mass as on earth).

    Experiment #2. One of our sources tells us that Coca Cola contains only traces of extracts from the coca plant and the kola nut. In this experiment you can come pretty close to making one of the most closely guarded of all trade secrets - the formula for Coke. Mix well in a glass: 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon bottled lime juice, 1/2 cup club soda, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Close your eyes and give it a try, you might be surprised! This mixture will look very different from real colas because there are no artificial colors added yet. Experiment with the amounts of the ingredients a little bit to get the taste just right. Bon Appetit!


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    June 1992