These past few weeks have seen a lot of events going on around the world. You might have seen fireworks during one of these days. Have you ever wondered how fireworks work? How do they get their colors and make shapes? Here we talk about the science behind your favorite fireworks! 🎇🎆 #STEMvee
[Video Description: Barbara, a white woman wearing a black shirt, is sitting in the foreground and the background has white sliding doors with gold handles.
4:49 – A full screen image: This video is sponsored by RIT/NTID Regional STEM Center. Below is a logo of RIT on the left with National Technical Institute for the Deaf on the right.]
*Text excerpts from several sources and modified for Atomic Hands
Transcript: These past few weeks have seen a lot of events going on around the world. Juneteenth and Independence Day in the USA, Canada Day in Canada, Clin d’oeil Festival in France among others. You might have seen fireworks during one of these days. Have you ever wondered how fireworks work? How do they get their colors and make shapes? For an aerial fireworks display to work, aerial shells must explode in two parts. First, the shell must be shot into the air so that the lights explode above the onlookers, rather than on the ground. This is similar to a rocket being shot into the air. You need an explosion on the ground to send it soaring. To achieve flight, a tube called a mortar is set on the ground in a rack or partially buried in sand. Gunpowder with a fuse attached is placed inside the mortar. The shell is placed on top of gunpowder. When the fuse is lit, the gunpowder explodes, creating enough heat and gas to propel the shell into the sky. Second, in just a few seconds, the shell is high enough that the time-delayed fuse inside the shell ignites, causing the gunpowder inside the shell to explode and sending fireworks in all directions creating the lights and shapes we enjoy. How do fireworks get their color?All aerial fireworks generally have a mixture of fuel, oxidizer (to help the fuel burn), and a binder (glue). However, you cannot get a burst to look red by using the same ingredients as the ones inside a white or blue firework. The color of a firework explosion depends on which kinds of elements are inside. If you look back to your high school chemistry class, you might remember learning about periodic table of elements. They play an important role in fireworks. Yellow fireworks are made from sodium (Na), red fireworks are from strontium (Sr), blue fireworks are from copper (Cu), green fireworks are from barium (Ba) salts, and white fireworks from aluminum (Al) or magnesium (Mg). Firework makers also mix different elements together to create even more colors. How do fireworks make shapes? To create the shapes, fireworks are arranged on a piece of cardboard in the desired configuration. For example, if we want fireworks to explode into a smiley face in the sky, then they need to be placed in a smiley face pattern on the cardboard. In fact, you may see several smiley faces in the sky at one time. With shaped fireworks, several are set off at the same instant to ensure the shape can be seen from all angles. If the spectators sit on the side with the cardboard lined up along their line of sight, they may only see a burst of light rather than the desired shape. If several go off at once, one of them should be oriented correctly when it bursts so the crowd can see the shape. Vee, right?!