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Different type of metal salts create different color in fireworks. Image via NASA.

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On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, Canadians commemorated Canada Day, and Saturday, July 4, is freedom Day – commonly referred to as the fourth of July – in the united States. That way it’s fireworks season in north America, though many – if not many – screens have to be canceled in 2020 as result of the pandemic.

So you might or can not check out fireworks (a form of pyrotechnics) this year. Still, it’s fun to remind the reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues and purples exploding in the skies, producing “ohhhhs” and also “ahhhhs.”

And it’s interesting to understand what creates those excellent colors.

The color in fireworks come from a an easy source: pure chemistry. They’re created by the use of metal salts. This salts are different from table salt, and in chemistry ‘salt’ advert to any kind of compound that has metal and also non-metal atoms. Few of these compounds produce intense colors once they room burned, which provides them best for fireworks. Others, favor potassium nitrate, sulfur and also charcoal are often used to help the fireworks burn. Nitrates, chlorates and also perchlorates provide oxygen because that the combustion of the fuel. Dextrin, regularly used together a starch, stop the mixture together. Part colors deserve to be strengthened v the usage of chlorine donors.

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A more detailed overview regarding how fireworks acquire their vivid colors. Picture via Compound attention 2015.

Metal salts commonly used in firework display screens include: strontium lead carbonate (red fireworks), calcium chloride (orange fireworks), sodium nitrate (yellow fireworks), barium chloride (green fireworks) and also copper chloride (blue fireworks). Purple fireworks are frequently produced by usage of a mixture the strontium (red) and also copper (blue) compounds.

The metal salts room packed into little pea- to plum-sized pellets referred to as “stars” or “pyrotechnic stars.”

After a firework is ignited, a lift fee propels it into the sky. That’s just explosive black color powder in a confined an are that, when lit, reasons a rapid increase the heat and also gas that have the right to send a firework as high as 1,000 feet (300 meters) into the air.

Meanwhile, a time-delay fuse burns gradually into the interior of the firework shell. After about 5 seconds, as the covering is soaring overhead, the fuse kindles a fee that get the core of the firework, explodes and also ignites the stars that contain the metal salts.


Fireworks in Austin, Texas, ~ above July 4, 2013. Picture via our girlfriend Sergio Garcia Rill.

Voila! A beautiful and colorful fireworks display.

By the way, the people who develop fireworks room precise, professional craftsmen. Placing on a fireworks display screen is a facility process, and also must be excellent safely in a regulated environment. If even one point is turn off — too lot black powder, stars the aren’t aligned effectively or a trigger that fires too quickly or as well late — every little thing can walk kaboom. Fireworks are explosives, ~ all, and also working v them is finest left to the professionals.

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Bottom line: The red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple color exploding in the night sky throughout a fireworks festival are developed by the use of metal salts. In 2020, countless if not many fireworks display screens have been canceled due to the pandemic.