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The Science Behind Fireworks

The chemistry behind a firework explosion:

  • The four main chemical ingredients needed to make a firework explode are;
    • An Oxidizer- Provides enough oxygen to facilitate the burn.
    • Fuel- Once combined with the oxidizer sets the stage for an explosion.
    • Colorant- Pellets containing gun powder and colorant are packed into the body of the firework. These are the elements used to make each color;
      • Green- Barium
      • Orange- Calcium Salts
      • Blue-Copper
      • Red-Lithium, Strontium
      • Bright White- Magnesium
      • Gold- Sodium
    • Binder- Used to hold the mixture of the firework together. The most common binder used in fireworks is dextrin.

The Chemistry behind the patterns:

  • The pattern you see in the sky comes down to the construction of the firework’s shell.
  • For each pattern you see there is a specific arrangement within the body of the firework.
  • It comes down to the construction of the aerial shells inside of the firework. If you form a heart pattern it will explode into the sky in that shape.

As you enjoy the lights in the sky this 4th of July remember how much science is behind making those spectacular explosions!


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