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How Fireworks Work & Other Explosive Facts

It’s Fourth of July of weekend, Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year and anyone with even a hint of party-loving patriotism is gearing up for a celebration – which means it’s time to talk about fireworks.*</br></br>We’ve talked about <a title="4 July 4th Fireworks Safety Tips" href="http://www.atgstores.com/ourblog/4-July-4th-Fireworks-Safety-Tips" target="_blank">fireworks safety</a> and why we have <a title="Why Do We Have Fireworks on July 4th?" href="http://www.atgstores.com/ourblog/Why-Do-We-Have-Fireworks-on-July-4th" target="_blank">fireworks on Independence Day</a>, and those are important topics, but this year it’s time to explore a little fireworks science.</br></br><strong>Your Basic Firecracker</strong></br></br>The standard firecracker is not a far cry from the first firecracker invented in China, which supposedly consisted of black powder stuffed into a piece of bamboo. The secret to the bang, then as now, is how well the propellant is packed.</br></br>Today, though, the bamboo is tightly wrapped paper and the black powder is still black powder, or a pyrotechnic chemical mixture called “flash powder.”</br></br><strong>Flash Powder Explained</strong></br></br>Flash powder is made of aluminum powder and potassium perchlorate, and is now a go-to component in the fireworks trade because it can be mixed to achieve an array of effects, particularly when it comes to the report (bang) and amount of color illumination in a firework.</br></br>But, it isn’t used as a propellant, and it doesn’t produce the amazing colors everyone loves – it just makes them more visible.</br></br><strong>Aerial Fireworks Propellant</strong></br></br>Black powder is the primary propellant of most aerial fireworks, and is also used to deploy the payload when it reaches peak altitude.</br></br>This, of course, takes a steady hand and a lot of smarts to produce. A pyrotechnics expert must know how much powder to use to a) get the shell to a specific altitude and b) ignite the color break.</br></br><strong>Color Breaks &amp; Compounds</strong></br></br>The “color break” describes the colors and patterns you see when an aerial firework explodes. The patterns are achieved by packing the aerial shells with chemical accelerants in a very specific way so when they’re ignited and deployed they create what you see in the sky.</br></br>What’s really cool, though, is how they make the colors with different chemical grains. Here’s a brief list of <a title="Dr. James Calvert, University of Denver" href="http://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/phys/bang.htm#Pyro" target="_blank">what is used to make various fireworks colors</a>:</br></br>- Blue = Copper</br>- Red = Strontium Nitrate</br>- Green = Barium Nitrate</br>- Yellow = Sodium Oxalate</br>- Gold = Iron</br></br>Now, when you’re watching this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display, you’ll be able to tell your friends what’s going on – hope you have fun!</br></br>*This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not to be used as a reference. Please do not try to make fireworks at home.
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