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Understanding the science behind fireworks

There's more to fireworks than blowing up stuff
Posted at 6:57 PM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 18:57:55-04

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — For Paul Smith, there’s more to fireworks than what meets the eye. Smith, the director of lecture demonstrations in the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University, says fireworks are chemical reactions can that impact all five senses.

“It’s really an in-action painting in the sky,” Smith said. “People that really work with making the craft of a fireworks show, put different components in there with the idea that when it gets up there, it’s going to present itself in different ways.”

Those components inside the fireworks are elemental — literally.

“It’s a chemical reaction going on that we’re able to see,” Smith said.

Smith explains that fireworks are the result of a chemical reaction between atoms and molecules that typically wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye. However, since the reaction is happening on such a large scale, we’re able to see it.

The color of those reactions vary by what elements are used. Smith says the fireworks industry relies on several elements to produce specific colors.

Strontium creates red, Barium produces green, Copper makes blue, and Sodium sparksyellow. Calcium can be used to make an orange/red.

You can click here for a complete list of Fourth of July fireworks shows in Central Indiana.