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What makes fireworks go boom?

The science behind a magical creation
Thursday, June 27, 2013

Every year Americans empty their wallets buying fireworks for the Fourth of July holiday. According to the American Pyrotechnic Association, in the year 2010 alone Americans spent more than $600 million on fireworks. But how exactly do these creations work?

According to Dr. Nikolay Gerasimchuk, associate professor of chemistry at Missouri State University, fireworks are a type of inorganic chemistry that contains two very important classes of compounds: propellants and explosives.

The colors visible when a firework explodes are caused by a large volume of gases mixing with heat, which creates the ignition of certain particles within the firework:

  • Magnesium and pieces of burning foil create the look of a shower of white stars falling from the sky.
  • Barium nitrate and copper creates a bright green color.
  • Potassium mixed with lithium creates a soft lilac color in the sky.

“Hot Topic – Expert Source” releases are a tool the office of university communications provides to assist media in locating a university source to comment on a particular subject or issue. The opinions expressed by the expert are those of a specific individual and are not necessarily representative of the views of the university.


About Missouri State University
Missouri State University is a public, comprehensive metropolitan system with a statewide mission in public affairs, whose purpose is to develop educated persons. The university’s identity is distinguished by its public affairs mission, which entails a campus-wide commitment to foster expertise and responsibility in ethical leadership, cultural competence and community engagement.
College of Natural and Applied Sciences
The College of Natural and Applied Sciences incorporates more than 20 undergraduate and 13 graduate programs along with one cooperative program offered through a partnership with Missouri S&T. The academic departments that make up the college include: biology; chemistry; computer science; engineering; geography, geology and planning; hospitality and restaurant administration; mathematics; and physics, astronomy and materials science. Students have the opportunity for intense hands-on research and internships through a number of outreach and research centers and work alongside faculty who are producing cutting-edge research in their fields.
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