July 07, 2018
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Chemical Elements Responsible for Fireworks

What’s the Chemistry Behind Fireworks?

Firework is one of the most beautiful and fascinating inventions of chemistry. It was invented by Chinese in the 6th Century BC during the Sung Dynasty. And, the custom of using fireworks for elaborate celebrations gained popularity in Australia during the 17th century. In the last few decades, firecracker manufacturers have introduced many advanced techniques to make the displays more spectacular and elaborate. In this write-up, our chemistry assignment help experts have discussed how they work and what chemicals are used to give them colour

1. Firecrackers mainly consist of combustible materials for energy, viz. black powder, a mixture of charcoal, saltpaper, sulfur, and cellulose nitrate. And, its coloured flame is created by the electrons present inside the sodium ions. They have the ability to absorb energy and move up to higher energy levels and then fall back to their ground state, emitting a specific amount of energy that corresponds to the colours of light.

2. An exploding firework happens due to simultaneous chemical reactions. A firework is filled with solid chemical compounds, and when we burn it, those explosives combine with oxygen in the air, which results in the formation of heat, light, gas, and other chemicals. You can understand this by analyzing the chemical reaction that happens when gunpowder (the main ingredient used in crackers) is set to fire

2KNO3 (potassium nitrate) + S (sulfur) + 3C (carbon in charcoal form) → K2S (potassium sulfide) + N2 (nitrogen gas) + 3CO2 (carbon dioxide)

3. Once a firework catches fire, the explosive materials filled inside it cause a rapid increase of heat and gas which often sends the cracker as high as 1000 feet into the air. And, there is a time-delay fuse inside it that burns slowly and displays the various shades of colours and patterns for hours.

4. You would have already burned metals in a hot flame in your chemistry laboratory. Do you know how they glow with such bright, intense colours? This is because when you heat metal, the electrons present in its atoms are excited to higher energy levels, and thus, they emit a quantum of energy. The colour of the light emitted by the metal depends upon the difference in the energy levels. Different metal compounds give different colors.

Take a look at some of the common elements that are used in fireworks

Antimony This lustrous gray metalloid is used for a glitter effect.
Aluminum It is used to produce silver and white flames and sparks.
Carbon Being an important component of black powder, it is used as a fuel and propellant in fireworks.
Iron Iron is used for creating bright red sparks.
Zinc This bluish-white metal is used to create smoke effects for fireworks.
Sulfur Sulfur is a component of black powder and is found in a firework's propellant.
Titanium Titanium metal can be burned as powder to produce silver sparks.
Phosphorus Phosphorus burns spontaneously in air and is also responsible for giving silver-glow.
Strontium Strontium salts impart reddish shine to fireworks and are also important for stabilizing fireworks mixtures.
Sodium Sodium imparts a yellowish color to fireworks. However, the color may be so bright that it masks less intense colors.
Potassium Potassium nitrate, potassium chlorate, and potassium help to oxidize firework mixtures.
Oxygen Fireworks include oxidizers which are chemicals that produce oxygen for the smooth burning process.
Magnesium This shiny gray solid is used to add white sparks or improve the overall brightness of a firework.
Lithium This silvery-white alkali metal is used to impart a red color, and is commonly used in the form of carbonates.
Copper Copper compounds like copper sulfate, copper oxide, copper hydroxide and copper nitrate produce blue colors in fireworks.
Calcium As it has the ability to produce a dark oxide-nitride layer when exposed to air, it is helpful for deepening firework colors. And, its salts are used for giving an orange colour to the fireworks.
Chlorine It is an oxidizer in fireworks which means it releases excess oxygen to make a better explosion. And, when combined with Barium, it emits a bright green colour.
Barium This silvery alkaline earth metal is used to create green colors in fireworks, and it can stabilize other volatile elements too.

Well, after reading this blog, if you are thinking about experimenting with these ideas at home, then do not dare to do so. Making crackers is a complex process that is carried out by trained craftsmen with utmost precision. Remember one thing that just a slight variation in the proportions of combustible materials used inside the firecracker can trigger the fire too soon or too late — causing major accidents.

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