The Chemistry of Fireworks

The head of a firework contains the effects it produces, collectively known as the payload, much like the payload of a space rocket. Certain fireworks have a “nose cone” that makes them travel faster and straighter, but most have a blunt end. For science teachers, fireworks are a great way to teach about chemistry and how things work. Read on to learn more. This article also covers the elements that are used in fireworks.

Physicists study pyrotechnics

Fireworks are an iconic part of many cultures. New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, and the Fourth of July are all incomplete without spectacular fireworks displays. Physicists study fireworks to learn how they work, and public displays are a great way to engage the community in learning about the chemistry behind them. Famous physicist Richard Feynman once said that beauty is found in the larger dimensions.

Chemical reactions involved in pyrotechnics

The chemical reactions involved in pyrotechnics involve combustion of a gas, fuel, or solid. Solid particles in flames lose their color purity when heated. In addition, they can produce black-body radiation. This type of radiation emits light that is continuous and increases exponentially with temperature. The flames of fireworks and pyrotechnics can also generate light in a continuous spectrum, which is called visible light.

Sources of iron and steel

Many fireworks contain iron or steel, as these metals are used for their firework colors. The iron ore used for these fireworks comes primarily from Michigan and Minnesota, though it can also be obtained from other places. For example, iron fillings used in fireworks create the gold sparks and small pieces of charcoal create the bright flashes. Other metals used in fireworks include zinc and aluminum powder. To learn more about their sources, check out the USGS mineral resources website.

Elements used in fireworks

Fireworks, commonly known as gunpowder, are a form of energy produced by reacting fuel and an oxidizing agent. These substances combine to create very high temperatures and a brilliant light. Fireworks differ from sparklers, which are made of a simple mixture of metal wire, fuel, and iron filings. Other substances are used to alter the nature of the sparks, causing them to burst into flames.

Safety instructions for handling fireworks

Follow all local laws when handling fireworks and read all warning labels before lighting them. Never consume alcohol when handling fireworks. Be sure to light fireworks on a flat surface, away from people and away from windows and other combustible materials. Also, keep your hair out of the way of the flame. And never attempt to light more than one device at a time. Also, follow all instructions for cleaning up and discharging.