Monday, July 1, 2013

The Science of Fireworks

What makes fireworks work?

Anybody know what the following is?
2KNO3 (potassium nitrate) + S (sulfur) + 3C (carbon in charcoal form) → K2S (potassium sulfide) + N2 (nitrogen gas)

*it's a chemical reaction typical when gunpowder burns, specifically in fireworks.
The following chemicals are needed to produce the various colors we see when they are used in fireworks:

Copper Salts                                Blue
Aluminum and Magnesium        Gold
Barium Salts                                Green
Strontium Salts                             Red
Aluminum and Magnesium         White
Sodium                                          Yellow

More in-depth info on the way fireworks work can be found at:


Learn about the history of fireworks at: (Did you know they started in China about the year 960?)

And check this out:
Did you ever think about fireworks in terms of math?? People who put on fireworks shows have to figure how high, how far, and the duration of a shell to be launched. The fireworks at the end of a show may be timed to music--this takes a lot of planning, it doesn't just 'happen.'

***We interrupt this blog for the following question:
How many years ago was the first Independence Day?***

You know we wouldn't be talking about fireworks without a nod to safety, right?

  • Don't ever try to make your own fireworks.
  • READ THE DIRECTIONS that came with them.
  • Don't buy fireworks that come in unlabeled brown paper wrappers.
  • When you light a firework piece, do not put any part of your body over it--don't hunch over it, have your head over it, etc. Hold it away from your body, or stand it on something that won't catch fire such as a cement block, light it, toss it if that's how it works, and quickly step out of the way.
  • If you have fireproof gloves, wear them when lighting fireworks.
  • Sparklers can get super-hot: 1200 degrees or hotter. This is why small children should never handle them.
  • Be mindful of how dry the grass might be in the area.
  • Eye injuries are common when using fireworks: Wear goggles to protect your vision.
  • If you have a firework that appears to be a 'dud', douse it with water. Don't try to ignite it again; it may be smoldering and ready to explode when you're not expecting it.
  • Keep a hose and/or bucket of water close at hand so you can put out fireworks. When they are 'spent,' throw them in the bucket of water and soak them before you throw them in the trash.
  • Do not throw a sparkler into a lake when you're done with it. You or someone else will likely step on it when you go swimming.
  • Injuries to the hands, face, and eyes are the most common injuries from fireworks.
  • Like everything else, drinking alcohol and fireworks is a bad combination.
  • Have some compassion for your pets: many are frightened by the noise and flashing lights of fireworks.
  • Your neighbors don't appreciate a sudden firework blast in the middle of the night, either.
  • The best way to enjoy fireworks is at a public display.

  • Check out all these places where you can enjoy them, and check with your own community for fireworks that may not be listed here: down for individual suburbs' celebrations.

For more facts about fireworks and some sobering statistics, check out this PBS website:

And play "Name That Shell" after watching a video of the various types of fireworks...

Here's a video of the spectacular fireworks in Washington, D.C. ---with music:

--Catch them this year at for 'A Capitol 4th.'
Have Fun and Be Safe this 4th!

**237 years ago in 1776**

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