Mix 7UP with lithium and here's what happens

If you're a science geek who loves crazy chemical reactions, this video is for you. Sadly, there's no taste test afterward.

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Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

Sometimes it's fun to mix everyday items with elements from the periodic table just to see what happens. In this case, the gang at Periodic Videos on YouTube decided to combine 7UP with lithium.

Ironically, the original recipe for 7UP contained lithium as an ingredient. In fact, 7UP was originally called "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda" when it was created all the way back in 1929.

It actually used lithium citrate, a mood-stabilizing drug, in its formula until 1948, when the US Food and Drug Administration outlawed usage of the chemical in soda drinks, according to the myth-busting blog Snopes.

In this video, the Periodic Videos crew find out what happens when you add lithium back into the 7UP we drink now. When you add a piece of lithium inside a beaker containing 7UP, the liquid appears to boil, change color and end up as a nasty-looking black alkaline slimy goo concoction.

"What was surprising was that the solution started to go pale green, then a reddish brown color, then looked like beer," explains Sir Martyn Poliakoff, a chemistry professor at the University of Nottingham who has the kind of hair even Albert Einstein would appreciate.

Enlarge Image

7UP does a lot more than just fizz when you add lithium.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

"A possible explanation for the color, is that it was produced by the alkaline conditions," Poliakoff continues. "And the alkali was causing a reaction of the other components of 7UP."

The crew then experiments with sodium hydroxide and 7UP to see if they can get a similar color change. While the color change isn't as abrupt as the lithium and 7UP mixture, the color change begins nonetheless, along with a rising temperature.

In this extra video footage of the 7UP experiment, you can see Poliakoff doing some more research, and even looking up an old scientific study from 1929 entitled "Sugar Activation by Alkali: Formation of Lactic and Saccharinic Acids" by Philip A. Shaffer and Theodore E. Friedemann to see if it offered any further ideas that could relate to the 7UP experiment.

"What it suggests is that we have a really rather uncontrolled experiment with a lot of alkaline and quite a lot of sugar, and there's quite a complicated reaction going on," Poliakoff explains. "So what's happening, is the lithium reacts with it all to make alkaline. The fact that it's lithium must be unimportant because we get a similar effect with sodium hydroxide."

If you like the idea of watching more creepy soda experiments in the name of science, check out their video of when happens to a Coke can in liquid Nitrogen.