How Do Fireworks Work?

everyone loves fireworks except for

small children and dogs but what exactly

goes into the making of these explosive

and beautiful balls of fire

fireworks are a lot more than balls of

explosive powder with a fuse they are

perfectly constructed chemical

masterpieces used in celebrations all

over the world first let's take a look

at how pyrotechnicians create the

various colors of fireworks when a

firework explodes it essentially is a

chain reaction of chemical reactions

that result in different shapes and

colors in the sky as you likely expected

the explosion creates heat that starts

the burning of different chemicals

packed within the shell to make

different colors pyrotechnicians have to

use different chemical compounds some

more dangerous than others these

compounds are typically metal salts

which burn specific colors compounds

based on sodium will burn different

shades of yellow or orange copper or

barium salts will burn green or blue and

calcium or strontium make red shades

combining these compounds in different

layouts within the projectile will

create different shapes for example if

you wanted to create a smiley face

firework that had a yellow circle into

blue eyes and a mouth starting from the

inside you would pack the fuse then the

primer charge will get to this in a

second then you'd lay out the balls of

barium in a smiley face blue then

surround the perimeter of the shell with

sodium balls to make the outer ring all

of this will be packed into a rigid

spherical shell and launched into the

air now that we understand the chemical

reactions behind a firework let's figure

out how they are propelled and the

explosions are initiated there are four

main parts that help to set off the

firework the stick the fuse the charge

and the effect the stick is essentially

that a long stick that protrudes out of

the end of the firework to make sure it

shoots in the right direction this helps

show organizers arrange the fireworks

and make sure the display goes according

to plan it also means that if you launch

one yourself

you hopefully won't fire it through your

neighbors window

the fuse is what is set off by the

initial lighting of the firework fuses

can be as simple as a piece of paper or

as complex as electrically timed wires

focusing in on the more complex

electrically timed fuses these are the

kinds that are used in professional

shows this allows a whole array of

fireworks to be set off from one central

computer sending signals to the

individual fuses these fuses burn for a

predetermined amount of time then set

off the main charge that launches the

firework into the air the fuse continues

to burn while the charge is being

expelled to eventually trigger the

explosion of the shell which produces

the effect of the firework the charge is

basically a rocket that launches the

entire shell into the air it can

accelerate shells to speeds greater than

300 miles per hour to reach altitudes

above 1,000 feet charges are typically

made through a mixture of gunpowder and

other minut chemicals for fireworks that

have extravagant tails as they are

launched in the air balls of chemicals

mentioned before can be laced into the

charge to create this effect the effect

of a firework is the final destructive

aspect and it's by far the most

important a firework without an effect

is just a boring old weird shaped rocket

the effect part of the firework contains

the chemicals mentioned before the end

of the fuse and a primer to start the

explosion the effect is inside the main

part of the shell often called the head

the head is packed with the specific

chemical design and Explosives to cause

the firework to go off as the fuse burns

through the charge it sets off a primer

that then ignites the main shell charge

to explode the firework starting the

colorful chemical reactions the

engineering behind fireworks is far more

complex and dangerous than the processes

make it seem only skilled

pyrotechnicians can safely create

fireworks of the magnitude needed to be


while these fun festive devices may seem

like toys they are dangerous explosives

that when used in the right way can be

fun displays of patriotism celebration