Chemistry of Fireworks

Periodic Table of Elements

 

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Displaying chemical compounds used to make fireworks is not intended to be used as a guideline on how to make homemade fireworks, but rather as an educational tool to better understand the products that you purchase and what makes them perform.

Fireworks rely on the chemical characteristics of the elements that are used to make them. This special periodic table highlights the elements that have significance to fireworks and pyrotechnics.

 

Al

Aluminum

Aluminum is used to produce silver and white flames and sparks. It is a common component of sparklers.

 

Ba

Barium

Barium is used to create green colors in fireworks, and it can also help stabilize other volatile elements.

 

C

Carbon

Carbon is one of the main components of black powder, which is used as a propellent in fireworks. Carbon provides the fuel for a firework. Common forms include carbon black, sugar, or starch.

 

Ca

Calcium

Calcium is used to deepen firework colors. Calcium salts produce orange fireworks.

 

 

Cl

Chlorine

Chlorine is an important component of many oxidizers in fireworks. Several of the metal salts that produce colors contain chlorine.

 

Cu

Copper

Copper compounds produce blue colors in fireworks.

 

Fe

Iron

Iron is used to produce sparks. The heat of the metal determines the color of the sparks.

 

K

Potassium

Potassium helps to oxidize firework mixtures. Potassium nitrate, potassium chlorate, and potassium perchlorate are all important oxidizers.

 

Li

Lithium

Lithium is a metal that is used to impart a red color to fireworks. Lithium carbonate, in particular, is a common colorant.

 

Mg

Magnesium

Magnesium burns a very bright white, so it is used to add white sparks or improve the overall brilliance of a firework.

 

Na

Sodium

Sodium imparts a gold or yellow color to fireworks, however, the color is often so bright that it frequently masks other, less intense colors.

 

O

Oxygen

Fireworks include oxidizers, which are substances that produce oxygen in order for burning to occur. The oxidizers are usually nitrates, chlorates, or perchlorates. Sometimes the same substance is used to provide oxygen and color.

 

P

Phosphorus

Phosphorus burns spontaneously in air and is also responsible for some glow in the dark effects. It may be a component of a firework's fuel.

 

S

Sulfur

Sulfur is a component of black powder, and as such, it is found in a firework's propellant/fuel.

Sb

Antimony

Antimony is used to create firework glitter effects.

 

Sr

Strontium

Strontium salts impart a red color to fireworks. Strontium compounds are also important for stabilizing fireworks mixtures.

 

Ti

Titanium

Titanium metal can be burned as powder or flakes to produce silver sparks.

Zn

Zinc

Zinc is a bluish white metal that is used to create smoke effects for fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices.

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