Chemistry

The Basics about Fireworks



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Fireworks are amazing objects that many people associate with Independence Day or Thunder over Louisville. Most people know that fireworks are very colorful and very powerful. These same great fireworks are also known to be immensely dangerous and can have harmful and painful effects if someone is struck by one of these objects. But what the general public does not know is the history of fireworks, how fireworks are made, and the chemistry of fireworks.
Fireworks originated in china nearly 2,000 years ago. There are many legends on exactly how and when fireworks were made. The most prevalent legend has it that fireworks were discovered or invented by accident by a Chinese cook working in a field kitchen, who happened to mix charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter. The mixture burned and when it was compressed in an enclosure, the mixture exploded.
Li Tian, a Chinese monk who lived near Liu Yang in the Hunan Province, is credited with the invention of firecrackers about 1,000 years ago. The Chinese people celebrate the invention of firecrackers every April 18 by offering sacrifices to Li Tian. A temple was established during the Song Dynasty so the local people could worship Li Tian. The Liu Yang region of the Hunan Province of China still remains as the main production area in the world for fireworks.
Today, there are many different types of fireworks. Three major types of fireworks are rolling and plugging tubes, the aerial repeater, and the fountain. All three have specific procedures in creating them.
Rolling and Plugging Tubes
Fireworks tubes are made by rolling thick paper tightly around a former, such as a dowel. Most of the time, manufacturers use machinery to create these tubes. Usually when tubes are used in fireworks, at least one of the ends is always plugged with clay to keep chemicals and burning gases from escaping through the end. The tooling is always made of non-sparking materials like aluminum or brass.
Aerial Repeater
An aerial repeater is usually made by several clay-rammed tubes being glued to each other in rows. Holes are the drilled in each tube and small pieces of fuse are placed in the holes to quickly move fire from tube to tube.
Fountain
Fountains consist of a tube with composition with clay plugs on either end, one of which has a small hole or choke. The choke prevents the hot gas from escaping the tube as easily as it would if there were no plug. This builds pressure in the tube and escaping gas and sparks are shot up with a lot of force as a result.
The chemistry principles of fireworks are mainly from the colors that fireworks emit. Certain chemicals correspond with the colors that the firework produces. The chemicals of these fireworks have to be made of pure ingredients or they will not produce pure colors. Even trace amounts of sodium impurities are sufficient enough to overpower or alter other colors. Careful formulation is required so too much smoke or residue doesn't mask the color.

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