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Fireworks Essay

863 words - 3 pages


How do fireworks produce their brilliant colors and loud bangs? To produce the noise and flashes, an oxidizer (an oxidizing agent) and a fuel (reducing agent) are used. The oxidizer oxidizes the fuel in a very exothermic reaction which produces a brilliant flash and a loud report from the rapidly expanding gases produced. For a color effect, an element with a colored emission spectrum is included. Electrons in atoms can be raised to higher-energy orbitals when the atoms absorb energy. The excited atoms can then release this excess energy by emitting light of specific wavelengths, often in the visible region. In fireworks, the energy to excite the electrons comes from the reaction between the oxidizer and fuel.

Fireworks are usually made out of the following items; an oxidizing agent, a fuel (reducing agent), a coloring agent, binders and regulators. These mixed together are what make up the basic fireworks:


The first thing in a firework is the oxidizing agent. These produce the Oxygen to burn the mixture. Oxidizers are usually nitrates, chlorates or perchlorates. The common oxidizers are nitrates. These are made up of a metal ion and the nitrate ion. I'll use potassium nitrate as an example. Nitrates only give up 1/3 of their oxygen. The resulting equation would look something like this:

2KNO3 ---> 2KNO2 + O2

The next Oxidizers are chlorates are also made up of a metal ion and then the chlorate ion. Chlorates give up all of their oxygen, causing a more spectacular reaction. Unfortunately this also makes the chemicals EXTREMELY explosive. An example of a chlorate giving up its oxygen would look something like this:

XClO4 ---> XCl + 2O2

Perchlorates have more oxygen in them, but are less likely to explode if you drop them than are chlorates. Again these are made up of a metal ion and then the perchlorate polyatomic ion.

Reducing Agents

The second elements of fireworks are the reducing agents. The reducing agents burn the oxygen produced by the oxidizers to produce hot gasses. Two examples of reducing agents are Sulfur and Charcoal (carbon). These react with the oxygen to form respectively Sulfur Dioxide and Carbon Dioxide.

S + O2 ---> SO2 C + O2 ---> CO2

Usually two reducing agents are combined. This results in speeding or slowing the reaction. Therefore, the reducing agents are used to control the speed of the reaction. Also, metals are often added to speed the reaction. The finer the powder the...

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