Chemistry firework – different metals emit different colours

Chemistry of firework – different metals emit different colours

10:33 AM, 10th July 2012
Chemistry of firework – different metals emit different colours
The colourful bursts that keep eyes glued to the sky has chemical phenomenon behind it.

MANHATTAN, US: The nighttime sky can be loaded with plenty of colours as red, white, blue, yellow, orange and green. Producing the colourful bursts that keep eyes glued to the sky has everything to do with chemical engineering, according to Stefan Bossmann, Professor of chemistry, Kansas State University. “The art of fireworks is the packaging, the firework depends on what’s inside,” said Bossmann.

According to Bossmann, what’s inside includes a fuse and fuel to make the firework explode. This fuel is typically a powder of charcoal, sulfur and potassium nitrate- similar to gunpowder. Also inside are one or more capsules or packets containing metals ground into tiny particles. When the firework explodes, the metal particles start oxidizing, which creates heat. “The heat is needed to excite the metal particles so they can emit light,” said Bossmann. We see the lights the metals emit as colours. “Different metals produce different colors. For example, think of liquid steel. When it gets hot it turns yellow,” explained Bossmann.

Metals used in fireworks today include aluminum, titanium, beryllium, barium, copper, potassium and more. The metals used to produce specific colours are; red- strontium and lithium, orange- calcium, yellow- sodium, green- barium, blue- copper, violet- potassium and rubidium, gold- charcoal, iron or lampblack, white- titanium, aluminum, beryllium or magnesium powders.

© Kansas State University News

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