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How Fireworks Work? Here Is The Chemistry Behind A Firework Explosion

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It’s Independence Day, and that means it’s time for controlled explosions in the sky. No, not Texas post-rock, the great scientific display that is a fireworks show.

“Fireworks are an application of chemistry and engineering: you need good chemistry to get the effects up in the sky and good engineering to make sure they get to the right altitude and burst at the right time,” John Conkling, the former director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.

Firework shows last between 15 to 20 minutes on average, but the amount of planning and preparation that goes into producing these displays can take up to two years.




Designers need ample time to determine the right colors and shapes they want to use, and to time the explosions to the soundtrack.

There are limits on the types of chemicals you can use, however. For one, they can’t be agents that collect moisture, or else they won’t burn properly when lit.

So from its initial lighting to its final spectacular explosion, a firework’s life begins with a lit gunpowder fuse, followed by a gunpowder-boost into the sky, and finishes with an explosion of a chemical medley of fuels, oxidizers, colorants, and binders.

As you enjoy these fiery tributes this weekend, remember how much science is involved behind the rockets’ red glare.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

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