The Chemistry of Fireworks

Hacking the Holidays

My family loves going to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July. Who doesn’t? And our friends at ByteSize Science have a new video explaining how all those different colors are produced. (Did you know they put in extra stuff to make the boom?) The video features a demonstration by fireworks expert John A. Conkling, of Washington College in Maryland, who literally wrote the book on The Chemistry of Pyrotechnics. ByteSize Science is produced by the American Chemical Society.

Make a fireworks pine cone with chemistry. Image: Anne HelmenstineMake a fireworks pine cone with chemistry. Image: Anne Helmenstine

Make a fireworks pinecone with chemistry. Image: Anne Helmenstine

If you’re brave, you can get the same colorful effects in your own backyard campfire by adding common household chemicals like boric acid or Epsom salts to dried pinecones or rolled newspaper logs. Check out Anne Helmenstine’s directions and video at the Chemistry blog.

Or if you prefer an explosion that’s quieter (and colder), be sure to pick up some Fireworks Ice Cream for your holiday picnic. Which reminds me — I better make sure we have some for our post-show treat!

Note: A version of this post was originally published on GeekDad in July 2010.

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