Boy Consumes Mentos with Coca-Cola, Dies - Analysis
Comments: That the combination of Mentos candies and soda pop can cause a violent, syrupy eruption is beyond doubt, as proven by the approximately 10,000 homemade videos on YouTube documenting the phenomenon.
That people have actually died as a result of consuming Mentos with carbonated beverages is another matter. Despite a surfeit of news coverage chronicling the video exploits of Mentos-and-Coke experimenters these past six months, no authenticated reports of death or injury have come to light.
Caveat: Though there is no evidence to date proving that the simultaneous consumption of Mentos and carbonated beverages has caused anyone serious physical harm, I don't recommend trying it. I really don't.
The Mentos effect
How to explain the foamy geyser resulting from these two ingredients being combined? Physics. Sodas contain compressed carbon dioxide. It's the gradual expansion and release of this pressurized gas in the form of bubbles that gives carbonated drinks their characteristic fizz. It's the surface tension of the liquid -- the strong attraction that bonds its water molecules together -- that prevents the gas from escaping all at once.
When Mentos are added, that surface tension is disrupted by additives in the candy -- gelatin and gum arabic, to name two likely culprits -- and the outside surfaces of the Mentos provide "nucleation sites" that encourage the rapid formation of bubbles. When you drop Mentos into a carbonated beverage, then, you cause the sudden release of pressurized gas for which the only exit is up and out through the narrow neck of the soda bottle -- hence the spectacular fountain effect.
Postscript: In Remembrance of Little Mikey
The "Mentos + Coke = Death" rumor can be read as a variant of a '70s-era urban legend claiming that the child actor who played the finicky "Little Mikey" in Life cereal TV commercials died as a result of his stomach exploding after he consumed Pop Rocks and a soda at the same time. In truth, the actor, whose real name is John Gilchrist, is still alive and healthy 30 years later, and there have been no known casualties resulting from the consumption of Pop Rocks and soda.
Sources and further reading:
Mentos... the Cash Maker
CNNMoney.com, 14 July 2006
'Mythbusters' Take on Mentos, Diet Coke Combustion Myth
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8 August 2006
Mentos - Soda Mix a Mint for Scientist
Denver Post, 6 November 2006
Why Do Mentos Mints Foam When You Drop them into Soda Pop?
General Chemistry Online FAQ
Last updated: 03/07/09