The chemistry behind fireworks: What makes them so magnificent

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Science is hidden in everything around us. Getting close to the Fourth of July the science staring us all in the face will be fireworks!

Everyone has their favorite Fourth of July tradition, but fireworks usually tops most people’s list.

Claire Benedict, a little girl who loves fireworks told us, “I like the finale because it’s my favorite part.”

Her sister Emily Benedict told News 4, “I like when the loud fireworks go on!”

You hear the oohs and ahhhs and see the bright explosions but have you ever wondered what makes the fireworks so magnificent? It’s a combination of science and innovation! Jason Benedict, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Buffalo, told News 4, “It’s basically this great combination of using high energy chemical reactions to put on a light show.”

But how and why do they fly high into the air and what causes the light? Benedict said, “Basically what it is, is we’re mixing together a series of high energy compounds that are going to create explosions. And some of those explosions are what propel your fireworks up into the air and then cause them to separate once they are up there.”

The explanation of the colors these explosions exhibit has a different reasoning. He said, “We’re now using the energy from those reactions to super heat atoms. These hot atoms give off light and those are the colors you see in the firework.”

Different elements give off different shades. Strontium, gives rise to a red color. Barium, gives rise to a green color. Copper, creates a blue color and sodium creates an orangish yellow color. Color isn’t the only show stopping part to a show. Creating different shapes has become trendy. Benedict said, “When I was a kid, at least, we didn’t have smiley face fireworks, but this has to do with organizing stars within these shells and they can give rise to these interesting new patterns.”

The color combinations and basic chemistry that creates fireworks will not change but that the possibilities are endless when it comes to making new and interesting designs into the future.

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