How Fireworks Work & Other Explosive Facts



fireworks,Flags,Happy July Fourth,outdoor seating

It’s Fourth of July of weekend, Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year and anyone with even a hint of party-loving patriotism is gearing up for a celebration – which means it’s time to talk about fireworks.*

We’ve talked about fireworks safety and why we have fireworks on Independence Day, and those are important topics, but this year it’s time to explore a little fireworks science.

Your Basic Firecracker

The standard firecracker is not a far cry from the first firecracker invented in China, which supposedly consisted of black powder stuffed into a piece of bamboo. The secret to the bang, then as now, is how well the propellant is packed.

Today, though, the bamboo is tightly wrapped paper and the black powder is still black powder, or a pyrotechnic chemical mixture called “flash powder.”

Flash Powder Explained

Flash powder is made of aluminum powder and potassium perchlorate, and is now a go-to component in the fireworks trade because it can be mixed to achieve an array of effects, particularly when it comes to the report (bang) and amount of color illumination in a firework.

But, it isn’t used as a propellant, and it doesn’t produce the amazing colors everyone loves – it just makes them more visible.

Aerial Fireworks Propellant

Black powder is the primary propellant of most aerial fireworks, and is also used to deploy the payload when it reaches peak altitude.

This, of course, takes a steady hand and a lot of smarts to produce. A pyrotechnics expert must know how much powder to use to a) get the shell to a specific altitude and b) ignite the color break.

Color Breaks & Compounds

The “color break” describes the colors and patterns you see when an aerial firework explodes. The patterns are achieved by packing the aerial shells with chemical accelerants in a very specific way so when they’re ignited and deployed they create what you see in the sky.

What’s really cool, though, is how they make the colors with different chemical grains. Here’s a brief list of what is used to make various fireworks colors:

- Blue = Copper
- Red = Strontium Nitrate
- Green = Barium Nitrate
- Yellow = Sodium Oxalate
- Gold = Iron

Now, when you’re watching this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display, you’ll be able to tell your friends what’s going on – hope you have fun!

*This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not to be used as a reference. Please do not try to make fireworks at home.

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