Colorful chemistry: science behind Fourth of July fireworks

Colorful chemistry: science behind Fourth of July fireworks

Pyrotechnics, fireworks, firecrackers, or whatever you call them: they can only go on if the weather cooperates.

You might be surprised to know that technically, fireworks can go on in the rain, at least according to this lesson from Weather STEM. The biggest thing to remember is that the fuse cannot get wet, otherwise, it won't light properly. Storing the firework in a dry container before lighting it is important.

This can also tie into humidity: if you store fireworks in a room that is too humid, the fuse may get too damp and not light properly.

Additionally, humidity plays into the vibrancy of fireworks. Colors won't look as bright for fireworks on humid nights. Dry air is ideal for the brightest colors.

If there is a thunderstorm, people shouldn't be outdoors anyway (remember, 'when thunder roars, go indoors'). Fireworks also shouldn't happen during a storm. It is possible for lightning to strike the fireworks on the ground and light them before they are ready.

Firework smoke is impacted by wind. On a calm day, smoke may stick around in the air for longer periods of time. On a very windy day, smoke is blown around more easily. Smoke could possibly blow towards crowds watching fireworks. We need a happy medium for wind speed.

Meteorology isn't the only science that impacts fireworks. There is a lot of chemistry that goes on when creating fireworks.

When fired, little pellets, or stars, are propelled high into the sky. Inside these pellets, there is a specific combination of metal salts. When these metals burn, they are very bright. Chemists can also design the fireworks with specific chemicals to give a certain color.

The silver and white fireworks are from magnesium and aluminum. Blue fireworks contain copper. Green has barium. Yellow has sodium. Orange has calcium. Red has strontium. Purple can be made with a combination of copper and strontium.

Whatever your favorite color of firework, you can see plenty of them across Michiana this weekend. This article has a list of firework displays across both Michigan and Indiana around Independence Day.

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