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Chemistry of Fireworks

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Submitted By samjocottingham
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The Chemistry of Fireworks

A firework is an incendiary device or material that can be used for signaling or entertainment. There are chemicals located in the nose of the rocket that explode, producing the colors seen. Fireworks were originally created for the purpose of entertainment and today they are still widely used in celebration to mark special occasions. The thrill and excitement generated by fireworks, brightening the night sky and immersing it with vivid displays of color and technicality, is what makes them a crowd pleaser.
But behind all the excitement of fireworks, chemistry plays an important role in creating the vivid colors we witness lighting up the sky. The actual chemical reactions that take place in the explosions require the use of oxidizers, reducing agents and binders. While the production of light in fireworks, rely on basic chemical principles such as redox reactions, combustion and the excitement of electrons in metal ions when heated.
Redox reactions are chemical reactions in which both oxidation and reduction take place. Oxidation is a process where oxygen is gained, or hydrogen lost and reduction is where oxygen is lost and hydrogen is gained. In order for the reactions to take place in a firework, oxidizers such as nitrates produce the oxygen to burn and reducers such as sulfur reduce the oxygen into hot gases.
NO3 (s) + S (s) → NO (g) + SO2 (g)
With any explosive device, combustion occurs. Combustion is a process of rapid oxidation of a substance with simultaneous release of heat and sometimes light. This is important in fireworks because of the redox reactions that occur. S (s) + O2 (g) → SO2 (g)
Fireworks require chemical reactions to create the vivid colors that are emitted. However there are three essential chemical items needed to allow the reactions to occur. They are an oxidizer, to produce oxygen needed to let...

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