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Food Ingredients

Periodic Graphics

Periodic Graphics: Coke and cola: Soda’s chemical history

Chemical educator and Compound Interest blogger Andy Brunning explores some surprising ingredients in old formulas of popular soft drinks.

by Andy Brunning, special to C&EN
April 23, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 13


An infographic examining the chemical history of soda. The first half of the graphic highlights the different methods historically used to carbonate water. It starts with the production of carbon dioxide via the reaction of chalk and sulfuric acid. Today, a pressurized injection method is used. The second half of the graphic looks at interesting compounds historically found in some sodas, including cocaine in Coca-Cola and lithium citrate in 7Up.

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References used to create this graphic:

Abu-Reidah, Ibrahim M. “Chapter 1—Carbonated Beverages.” In Trends in Non-alcoholic Beverages, edited by Charis M. Galanakis, 1–36. London: Academic Press, 2020. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-816938-4.00001-X.

Emmins, Colin. Soft Drinks: Their Origins and History. Shire Publications, 1991.

Laskow, Sarah. “The Great Soda-Water Shake Up.” Atlantic, Oct. 1, 2014.

A collaboration between C&EN and Andy Brunning, author of the popular graphics blog Compound Interest

To see more of Brunning’s work, go to To see all of C&EN’s Periodic Graphics, visit



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