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How Do Fireworks Get Their Color? Chemistry!

Warm nights often are associated with a sky full of fireworks. The vibrant colors and dramatic displays are loved by viewers of all ages, but did you know that this is only made possible through chemistry? It’s true – fireworks are an example of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in action! Keep reading to uncover how minerals can produce the exciting sights and sounds of fireworks this summer.


Minerals and Color

While you might not think of science right away when viewing fireworks, the truth is, each one is formed by chemical reactions. To make the many colors we see, various elements are added to reach the desired hue. If your next question is, “What mineral is my favorite firework color made from?”, the United States Geological Survey helps break it down!

Classic silver and white fireworks come from a combination of titanium, zirconium and magnesium, while strontium gives fireworks a deep red, sodium produces shades of yellow and copper gives us beautiful blues. Just like color mixing with paint, mixing strontium and copper leads to purple fireworks, and strontium combined with sodium makes amazing orange bursts. However, green fireworks are not a mixture of copper and sodium – rather, they get their color from barium chloride.

Some of these mineral elements already might sound familiar to you. Similar elements can be found in medicine, electronics, metalwork and so much more!


Ingredients for Sound

Boom, fizz and pop – how can scientists create these familiar sounds? Not only do minerals control how fireworks look, but some elements can even impact the sound they make!

Smithsonian magazine explains that some fireworks have layers of sodium salicylate and potassium perchlorate that burn layer by layer, creating a whistling sound, while others contain aluminum or iron flakes to achieve a hissing noise. The standard, big boom effect of fireworks often is attributed to metal powders that also can come with a flash of light.

Next time you’re outside observing fireworks, we encourage you to ask your family and friends their favorite parts of the show. Then, wow them with your chemistry knowledge when you explain how these magnificent displays are made!


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Stay tuned in to our blog to explore additional ways to see STEM in action in our everyday lives.

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