What Makes Fireworks Red, White and Boom?

What Makes Fireworks Red, White and Boom?


Happy Independence Day! Ever wonder how all those wonderful patterns and colors are made?  Rocks.

More specifically, minerals.  Certain kinds of minerals.  Much like painting or sometimes even using crayons, the mixing of minerals and mineral compounds creates additional colors.  For example:

  • Bright Greens – barium
  • Deep reds – strontium
  • Blues – copper
  • Yellows – sodium
  • Brilliant Orange – strontium
  • Silver White – titanium, zirconium and magnesium
  • Purple – copper and strontium

As with colors, certain effects are also created by combining certain minerals.  Each mineral has specific physical characteristics and behaves differently under heat or other conditions.  Iron fillings and some charcoals make gold colored sparks when subjected to heat.  Magnalium (magnesium-aluminum alloy) can produce a small series of tiny silvery-white flashes.  Larger chunks, like granules or flakes, make the effect last longer.

Fireworks were discovered in ancient China.  The understanding and know-how of fireworks has progressed tremendously over the centuries.  Although fireworks are an absolute wonder to watch and sometimes use, safety first must be the requirement.  Some of those flash effects we just discussed?  The temperature at which some of those reactions occur can be in excess of 700 degrees.  Some of the most costly accidents, in terms of life, occur in firework factories.

Just like most everything else in our everyday lives, we couldn’t have fireworks without mining.  Having said that, what is there in our everyday lives that does NOT come from mining?