Each Fourth of July we celebrate our independence — and a day off — with barbecues, picnics and fireworks. Some are content to wave a few sparklers in their backyards while others go all out with cannons and synchronized explosions. We light a simple fuse and are rewarded with a spectacular explosion of vibrant colors. But how exactly does it work?
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First, let’s skip the scientific jargon because most of us did not excel in our chemistry classes. In strictly laymen’s terms, all fireworks are simply oxygen-rich chemicals that burn, hence the term “fire” work.
Combine that with a fuel to act as the combustion or the boom, and you have yourself an explosion of color that would make even Uncle Sam smile.
Have you ever wondered why the mortar shells you buy are made of cardboard? No, it isn’t just an excuse for manufacturers to put an appealing design on the product. Instead, the packaging is there to separate the inner chemicals, which gives us control over when the reaction will take place, (i.e., lighting the fuse and waiting for the corresponding boom).
The fuse is the controlling mechanism. Once the fuse is lit, gunpowder explodes, forcing the object inside to shoot out at a high rate of speed. The fuse is actually still burning as the chemicals are launched high into the air.
The length of the fuse is critical. The bigger the expected explosion, the longer the fuse will be. As you might imagine, it’s important that the firework gets high in the sky, away from everyone below, before it explodes.
Once the fuse has reached the inner portion of the firework where the chemicals are located, the explosion takes place. The more chemicals and gunpowder attached inside the firework, the larger the explosion and the more colorful the display.
The visual aspect of a firework — and the main reason people like watching them — is due to little balls located inside the black powder called stars. The shapes and colors of the firework have to do with how the stars are arranged inside the black powder, according to A Plus.
So this time next year, you’ll be able to impress your friends and family gathered for the Fourth of July celebration with your vast knowledge of pyrotechnics.