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Chemistry in Fireworks and the Process of Its Creation

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The Science of Chemistry in fireworks (Fireworks Color) comes from various metal compounds , especially metal salts. The most important component of fireworks is, of course, gunpowder, or ‘black powder’ as it is also known.

This compound was discovered by chance by Chinese chemists, who at first wanted to find a panacea in life, they found that the combination of honey, sulfur and saltpeter (potassium nitrate) would suddenly explode in the fire at the time of heating.

Chemistry in Fireworks and the Process of Its Creation
Source: Unsplash.com

The combination of sulfur and potassium nitrate then combines with charcoal in place of honey, sulfur and charcoal serve as fuel in the reaction, while potassium nitrate is useful as an oxidizing agent. modern black powder has a weight ratio of potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulfur weight is 75:15:10; and this ratio has remained unchanged since about 1781.

Chemical Science Processes in Fireworks

The combustion of black powder does not occur as a single reaction, so the product can be more complicated. The closest reaction can be written down with the equation for this process shown below, with charcoal called by the empirical formula:

6 KNO3 + C7H4O + 2 S → K2CO3 + K2SO4 + K2S + 4 CO2 + 2 CO + 2 H2O + 3 N2

Variations in the pellet size of gunpowder and the amount of moisture can be used to significantly increase the burning time of fireworks.

Like gunpowder, fireworks contain a ‘binder’-which is used to bind the components together, and also to reduce the sensitivity of shocks and impacts.

Generally these binding compounds consist of organic compounds, namely dextrins, which can then act as fuel after ignition. Oxidizing agents are also needed to produce the oxygen needed to burn the mixture, in this usually what is used is nitrate, chlorate, or perchlorate.

Explosions such as ‘stars’ contained in firework tubes contain metal powders or salts that give fireworks the color. This material is often coated with gunpowder to assist in ignition. The heat released by the combustion reaction causes the electrons in the metal atoms to be excitation to a higher energy level.

This form of excitation is unstable, so electrons quickly return to their original energy (or ground state), and emit excess energy as light. Different metals will have different energy gaps between the ground state and the excited state, which leads to the emission of different colors.


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This is the exact same reason as the flame reaction of a metal, that different metals give different fire tests, which we often use to distinguish between those metals.

The colors emitted by different metals are shown in the chart below.

Chemistry in Fireworks and the Process of Its Creation
Source: Unsplash.com

The presence of metal atoms in this compound is very important, then, but there are some compounds that are better than those of others. Hygroscopic compounds (compounds that attract and retain water) are not widely used in fireworks, as they can make the mixture wet and difficult to burn. Some colors are also notoriously difficult to produce.

Copper contains compounds tend to be unstable at higher temperatures, and if it reaches high temperatures, it will collide and break, which causes the blue color to be invisible. For this reason, we can see the quality of the fireworks by looking at the blue color that is produced.

The purple color is also quite difficult to produce, because it still involves the use of blue color-producing compounds combined with the material that causes the red color.\

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