Chemistry

The Chemistry of Firework Colors



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Fireworks were said to have occurred around 2,000 years ago in China. They were actually found by a Chinese cook when she was mixing kitchen ingredients one day. She mixed KNO3, sulfur, and charcoal, and simply heated them in an oven in her kitchen. The ingredients dried together and produced a black, flaky powder that would burn with a loud bang when it was ignited. They called the creation huo yao, which translates to the fire chemical. Not long after this, the black powder that is known to us today as gun powder (the fire chemical) was put into a bamboo stick, and when it was thrown into a fire, the powder ignited and blasted the tube apart. This is where the first official fire cracker was created.
Fireworks were mainly used in Chinese cultures until they spread to the west coast. Roger Bacon, who was an English scholar, researched gun powder, and he realized that it was the KNO3 that made it have such a loud explosion. He was worried that what he found out would promote warfare, so he wrote them in code and they weren't deciphered until years later. Because of this discovery, lots of different combinations were eventually put together to make the perfect firework. Finally they were set on 75% KNO3, 15% charcoal, and 10% sulfur, the same percentages that are used today.
Not only did they use bamboo sticks to shoot fireworks, but they came up with other things soon after. A "ground rat" was discovered in 1200 A.D. This was a paper firecracker that was open on one end and instead of exploding, the gas shot out of the opening and shot the rat on to the ground, and occasionally in the air. This idea led to the discovery of the first rocket. The rockets were then fired into the air, which became the creation of the first aerial fireworks.
The Chinese came up with the firework, and the Italians figured out how to make them colored. They developed aerial shells of color that you launch up with the gun powder that explodes into color in the air, which therefore lights up the sky. Fireworks then became more and more popular over the years, even though for 2,000 years, the only colors were yellow and orange. Pyrotechnicians used modern technology to bring other colors to light up our fireworks.
Fireworks were introduced over 2,000 years ago, and they are still being used today. Not only are they still being used, but they are still being improved year to year, trying to make more colors and designs for us to use.
They are said to fight off evil spirits and to frighten people with the loud bangs they make. Because the fireworks originated in the Chinese culture, they are used to celebrate the Chinese New Year to welcome in the New Year and fight away all of the evil spirits. Not only are they prominently used in the Chinese culture, but they are used all around the world as well. Fireworks can be used for births, deaths, birthdays, just for fun in your backyard, new years, football games, the 4th of July, and of course, Thunder over Louisville!

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