Really? w/ Liam Healy: The Science Behind Fireworks

Digital Desk
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BECKLEY, WV (WNVS) — During times of celebration, fireworks light up the night sky in a dazzling display of bright colors and explosive declarations. But what makes the fireworks glow in all colors of the rainbow? The short answer is science. The long answer is chemical reactions of different elements from the periodic table creating dazzling colors as they release massive amounts of energy.

What elements do you need to create each color?

All of the elements used are different types of metals found on the periodic table. In order to get the chemical reactions going, black powder is used to generate massive amounts of heat that then cause the elements to burn and begin to emit stunning colors.

Which elements make what?

  • Strontium (Sr) Group 2, Row 5 makes Red
  • Calcium (Ca) Group 2, Row 4 makes Orange
  • Sodium (Na) Group 1, Row 3 makes Yellow
  • Barium (Ba) Group 2, Row 6 makes Green
  • Copper (Cu) Group 11, Row 4 makes Blue
  • Copper and Strontium make Purple
  • Magnesium (Mg) Group 2, Row 3 makes Silver
  • Aluminum (Al) Group 13, Row 3 and Titanium (Ti) Column 4, Row 4 make White

How do they create the different shapes?

According to the Library of Congress, the different shapes are made during the construction of the firework itself. The stars (the metals and chemicals that determine the color) are loaded into the firework in pre-arranged shapes and patterns. They are then surrounded by the black powder before sealing them up and shipping them off. This whole process has to be carefully measured out to ensure proper ratios of black powder to the stars within, and that the fireworks explode at the proper altitudes and time. After all, you certainly don’t want them to go off too early.

So when you head out to the park, the waterfront, or wherever to catch the next fireworks show, remember to thank the power of science for it!

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