Fireworks and the incredibly simple chemistry behind them


Chemistry is great. If you know the basis, then you can know for sure that the likes of Food Babe are utterly stupid or even maleficent. I wrote a while ago a small chem guide for the folks back here in Romania. Most of the resources from that blog post come from Compuond Chem and Science Based Medicine.

In the video from above we learn not about the chemistry in our food, but about the chemistry in fireworks. And who doesn’t love them as you know that 4th of July is coming. 4th of July is also the day I first started blogging in 2010. Good old days, people.

Getting back to chemistry, most of the colors from the fireworks are created by metals or metal alloys that burn in the air and then give off distinct color. Usually they use Sodium (Na), Magnesium (Mg), Potasium (K), Strontium (St) Aluminum (Al), alloys from there or even salts (NcCl, MgCl) or sulfates to make those explosions so fancy.

Each such light bomb, an aerial shell, has at least one chemical with Oxygen in it Potasium Nitrate, Potasium Perclorate and others and then you need a fuel made of aluminum powder, charcoal, sulfur, magnesium powder.

Aerial shells has a bottom of black powder that propels it up into the air, then a time fuse and then the inside of the sphere is a black powder bursting charge with metal pellets that create different light and shape effects when they burn.

See also, the following fireworks video. You will learn that yellow is produced by NaCl, salt, green is produced by burning BaCl, barium chloride, Cu, copper, gives out blue color, StCl, strontium chloride will give you a bright red color, and purple color is generated by a mixture or red (St, Strontium) and blue (Cu, copper).

Also, how is that light actually created? well, during burning the outermost electrons eat up energy and then they jump to higher levels of energy. They won’t stay long in there and they will jump back to their usual energy levels and will give off light in different wavelengths along the way. Nice, huh?

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