Enjoying the fireworks? You are watching chemistry in action!

The Weather Authority

When you are watching the fireworks this year, just think — that is chemistry in action!

Okay, you may not be thinking about science and would rather focus on the show, but the spectacular colors and sizzling sounds wouldn’t happen without it.

When we look up at the sky and see the rockets’ red glare, you can thank the element strontium for the ruby hue.

In fact, the majority of the colors you see are courtesy of various compound salts bursting in the air. 

Red is formed when strontium salts are heated to extreme temperatures.

Orange fireworks get their glow from calcium, where as yellow is formed from sodium.

Green bursts of color are from barium, and copper compounds are responsible for the shimmery blue bombs bursting in air.

But if you’d rather celebrate the holiday in your backyard with a big box of sparklers, behold that you are enjoying the sights and sounds of chemistry in your hand.

Sparkler rods contain a mixture of powdered metallic fuel, oxidizers and binder — and what’s in the fuel can result in different colors. 

Aluminum and magnesium compounds produce yellow sparks; iron produces more bronzy hues, and titanium produces silvery sparks.

Oxidizers in the sparkler rod produce oxygen, which help the metallic fuel burn.

And of course, there are binding materials that hold everything together.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July, and if you watch any fireworks this weekend — I hope you enjoy the science show!

– Christina

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Facebook: Christina Edwards, WHNT
Twitter: @ChristinaWHNTwx

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