Many people enjoy some fizz in their drinks, but they may not know how their drinking water and other favorite drinks get that way. Carbonated beverages are created by using carbonation, and many people may think that this involves converting a mineral compound to a carbonate. But, most carbonate compounds are not soluble, so the actual process used may be difficult to comprehend at first glance. In fact, the chemistry of carbonated water is pretty easy to understand, and it’s based on dissolving carbon dioxide or CO2 into the drink- Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

The Interaction Between Water and CO2

CO2 is a gas that is created due to a chemical reaction, such as the classic high school volcano experiment where baking soda and vinegar are combined to create CO2 by acidifying a carbonate compound. CO2 gas can also be produced due to fermentation or the action of microbes in a liquid. When drinking water is carbonated, it creates tiny bubbles that excite our taste buds and allow them to transfer the water flavors efficiently.

If CO2 is dissolved in water chemical reactions will occur. First. the CO2 will create a carbonic acid, which you may recognize when drinking carbonated water because it stimulates the bitter taste receptors on our tongues. This carbonic acid is further dissociated into hydrogen ions and bicarbonate. The series of chemical reactions are known as the bicarbonate buffering system, and every living organism needs it.

Examining the Science

When water is carbonated, it’s essentially an equilibrium reaction that’s occurring. Every chemist understands that this particular reaction can happen in both directions. The determining factor is the compound that has the highest concentration, and the pH level is essential. When the pH level is lower more carbonic acid is present, when the pH level is higher there will be a higher concentration of bicarbonate. If more CO2 is added to a solution, a greater amount of carbonic acid is produced, and this will reduce the bicarbonate or alkalinity. This is why many carbonated drinks have a slight acid taste or aftertaste.

When a carbonated bottle or can is opened, there is usually an accompanying fizz. This is explained by an Ideal Gas Law known as “Henry’s Law,” that describes how pressure can affect the solubility of a gas in a solution. When a carbonated drink is created, it’s subjected to an infusion of CO2 gas under high pressure. If this pressure is maintained in a sealed vessel, the CO2 remains in the solution even though a gas should not naturally act in this manner. So, when you crack the seal on a can or bottle, the pressure is relieved, and the tiny bubbles we can see is the CO2 leaving the solution.

Drinking Carbonated Water

The detrimental health risks of sugary carbonated soda beverages are well documented, but consumers can still enjoy a fizz in their drinks without the sugar and artificial flavoring chemicals. Adding carbonated water to your diet will keep you hydrated throughout the day, and this will boost your concentration and improve your mood.

By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.