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Chemistry of Fireworks
Transcript of Chemistry of Fireworks
What's in a Firework?
Fireworks are phenomenons of light and sound that explode in the air. The display caused by black powder and other substances are often enjoyed at large events, religious purposes, and other festivities. A pyrotechnics show offers multiple fireworks of many different colors, designs, and sizes. Ever since fireworks originated during the Tang Dynasty in the 7th Century up until today, the aspects of fireworks were modified due to influence, culture, safety, and enjoyment. Many different substances and elements come into play for processing fireworks, whether it be the creation or ignition of it. A lot of chemistry is involved to make fireworks the great wonders of science they are today.
The color produced by fireworks are just elements at work. Calcium chloride and sodium nitrate are melting salts that combine with other elements to form mixtures. The color of light depends on how much excess energy is given off by an atom after absorbing energy and re-organizing the electrons which transform from ground state to an excited state. A particular wavelength of light is used to measure the amount of energy released. The lower energy released would cause more nanometers in the wavelength scale.
Colors and Compound
Red: Strontium salts+Lithium salts+Lithium carbonate (Li2CO3)
Bright Red: Strontium carbonate (SrCO3)
Orange: Calcium salts+Calcium chloride (CaCl2)
Yellow: Sodium salts+Sodium chloride (NaCl)
Green: Barium compounds+Chlorine producer+Barium Chloride (BaCl2)
Blue: Copper coumpounds+Chlorine producer+copper+Chloride (CuCl)
Purple: Strontium mixtures+Copper compounds (Li2CO3CuCl)
Silver: Burning aluminum+Titanium+magnesium (AlTiMg+Heat)
"Every pyrotechnic composition has at least that's oxygen rich... [with] a fuel, that's going to combine with the oxidizer, that's going to produce heat," says John A. Conkling, pyrotechnics chemist (0:56-1:38)
To boost and make a firework explode in the air, the aeriel shells are inserted into tubes called mortars. The aerial shell is connected to a fuse, consisting of gunpowder. The fuse is ignited, causing heat and gas pressure buildup within the space between the bottom of the shell and the base of the mortar. As the pressure buildsup to its apex, it boosts the shell up into the air. When the gunpowder fuse runs out, another fuse, known as the time-delay fuse, is triggered. When the black powder inside the shell is ignited, gas and heat pressure builds up again, causing the shell to burst and propel the substances inside to form designs.
Heat Builds Up and Explodes Shells
As the aerial shell is launched in the air, the temperature of enclosed gas increases, making the volume expand due to the hot condition. According to Charles' Law, "if a given quantity of gas is held at a constant pressure, its volume is directly proportional to the [absolute] temperature," (SAT Chemistry). The polyatomic ion, nitrate (NO3-), is used in black powder of fireworks to control and regulate temperatures because during oxidation, it doesn't release all its oxygen atoms. However, this wasn't always the case. During the early 1800's, chlorate anion (CIO-3) were the major components of black powder, causing more oxidation due to its habit of releasing all of its oxygen atoms. This caused temperatures to range from 1500-2000 degrees Celsius. Perchlorate (CIO4-) cause a more vigorous reaction during oxidization, but due to stability, are incapable of exploding as well as the other polyatomic ions/anions.
Oxidation of Perchlorate
Potassium Nitrate (KNO3)
Potassium Perchlorate (KCIO4)
Strontium Nitrate (Sr(NO3)2)
Oxygen Atom Release
Heat Output & Burning Rate
Chemical Reaction of Fireworks
Fireworks are essentially aerial shells that are launched into the sky and explode to produce colorful and loud phenomenons, known as pyrotechnics. Manufacturers start with the casing of the shell, which is paper or string that forms a bulb shape, so gases can easily build up and burst inside. A pasteboard sphere composed of combustable elements, or "stars," is placed around the inner section of the bulb. These are the actual streams of light and sparkles in a firework. The busting charge is in the middle, where blackpowder (sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate) and firecracker-like charge fills the middle of the bulb. Finally, two fuses are placed in the shell- the mortar connection fuse and the time-delay fuse.
Works Consulted (APA)
Calcium Chloride (Major Element #1):
An ionic compound salt with characteristics of an ionic halide, which is solid at room temperature and soluble in water. (CaCL2)
Sodium Nitrate (Major Element #2)
: A chemical compound salt, a source of nitrate anion, which is usually solid and soluble in water. (NaNO3-)
The distance in electromagnetic waves (Speed of Wave divided by Frequency is equal to Wavelength)
Process and result of chemical combination with oxygen atoms
-has to do with atoms) Consists of multiple atoms
A display of fireworks
: Cartridge in an aerial shell with combustible and explosive material
: Level or event of lighting
ASCVids (2014). The Chemistry of Fireworks [Video]. In
. Washington, D.C: American Chemical Society.
Brain, M. (2013). How Fireworks Work. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/fireworks1.htm
Conkling, J., & Decker, M. (1985). Fireworks! Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/fireworks/fireworks.htm
Gondhia, R. (2011). Composition. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://www.ch.ic.ac.uk/local/projects/gondhia/composition.html
Helmenstine, P. (2015, February 20). Chemistry of Firework Colors. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://chemistry.about.com/od/fireworkspyrotechnics/a/fireworkcolors.htm
The Chemistry of Fireworks. (2013, December 30). Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://www.compoundchem.com/2013/12/30/the-chemistry-of-fireworks/