Pyrotechnics are a powerful art form that use different chemicals and minerals, each with a unique role in the show. These chemicals produce bright colors, sparks, and exotic effects like glitter and smoke. In this article, we’ll explore the various chemicals used in pyrotechnics and how they help to create fireworks of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Chemicals Used in Pyrotechnics
Potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, is a common oxidizing agent that supplies oxygen to a pyrotechnic mixture. This oxygen is necessary for the chemical reaction that produces the explosion. Potassium nitrate is also used to create the purple and violet colors seen in fireworks displays. It is usually mixed with other chemicals, such as aluminum and sulfur, which are highly flammable and combustible when mixed with potassium nitrate.
In its most common form, potassium nitrate is mixed with sawdust or carbon black, wax or clay, and ignited. These mixtures form white sparks or a brilliant white color with glitter effects. To produce brighter colors, such as red or green, strontium compounds are added to the firework mixture.
Charcoal is a common fuel used to provide the heat necessary to ignite the pyrotechnic mixture and to produce the black smoke seen in some fireworks. Charcoal is made by burning wood or other organic material with limited oxygen, so it has a very low ignition temperature. It’s also non-toxic and fairly cheap, making it ideal for use in fireworks.
Aluminum and Magnesium
Aluminum and magnesium are two of the most common metal powders used to produce bright white sparks and flashes, as well as the silver and gold colors seen in fireworks. Aluminum is often combined with sulfur and potassium nitrate in a ‘black powder’ base mixture, which produces an intense yellow spark. Magnesium gives pyrotechnics a brighter white spark and is often combined with potassium perchlorate for added intensity.
Copper compounds are essential to fireworks mixtures since they add a rich and dazzling variety of colors to the display. Copper powder is most commonly used to produce blue and green colors but can also create a bright white spark.
One interesting component used in pyrotechnics is Strontium, a metal powder that produces bright red and the purple and pink colors seen in fireworks.
Strontium occurs naturally in salts and is often mixed with other components to create certain fireworks effects. In its pure form, Strontium can be an extremely potent oxidizer used as a colorant when mixed with other elements. Common forms of strontium-containing salts include strontium nitrate, carbonate, and peroxide. Other compounds, such as potassium chlorate or potassium perchlorate, are added for additional oxidizing power, while copper compounds are added for green colorants.
Barium is a metal powder that produces green colors in fireworks and the white sparks seen in most firework mixtures. Most people use a mixture of potassium perchlorate and barium nitrate to get the desired effect. When mixed, potassium perchlorate’s high combustion temperature and barium nitrate’s low combustion temperature create the perfect environment for the reaction. This reaction produces light that can be seen for miles!
Shop Quality Chemicals for Your Pyrotechnic Needs Today
If you are looking to source the highest quality chemicals for your pyrotechnic needs, Bisley International can help. Our extensive range of chemicals is ideal for creating all sorts of fireworks, from bright white flashes to colored stars that dazzle the sky. Contact us today to place an order.