Blast of Fireworks: Colours of Science


In the canvas of the night sky, fireworks dance with vibrant hues and whispered tales. Behind each brilliant burst lies a story of science and art entwined.

As you journey below, unveil the mysteries that paint the heavens with light.

Science and Fireworks? What might be the science of these beautiful fireworks?

Fireworks from before B.C.? You're kidding me!

In ancient Liuyang, China, during the second century B.C., bamboo stalks thrown into flames became nature’s first firecrackers. 

Their loud pops, believed to chase away evil spirits, hint at the origins of today’s fireworks

“In the mystical era between 600-900 AD, tales whisper of a Chinese alchemist’s curious blend: potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal. This obsidian flaky concoction, known as the pioneering ‘gunpowder,’ found its vessel in bamboo’s hollow embrace, and later, in the confines of crafted paper tubes. Thus, the sky’s first man-made luminaries were born.

Oh, I've got this! Sulfur and charcoal are the fuels, and potassium nitrate? That's the oxidizer!

Aha! Yet those firecrackers? They're still dancing with that old smoky gunpowder!

In days gone by, gunpowder, crafted from sulphur, carbon, and potassium nitrate, cloaked the air in thick smoke. But with the advent of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin, the modern age introduced a clearer, less smoky successor.
Even today, fireworks use that smoky old gunpowder. But the bright colors? That’s thanks to different metals mixed in, each giving its own special glow

Metals make the colours, not dyes? Wow, that's a surprise!

Chemistry, The Painter!

Step into the night’s gallery, where chemistry wields its brush in bursts of sky-bound art. Each firework, a vivid bloom, owes its glow to a sprinkle of metal magic. Like artists choosing pigments, pyrotechnicians pick metals that burn with rich colours—iron for a shower of gold, aluminium for a bangs.

Now, let’s get up close and personal with these starry performers below:

Imagine each firework as a package, carefully wrapped and ready to surprise. Stefan Bossmann, a wizard of chemistry, tells us it’s all about what’s tucked inside. Picture a mix similar to the gunpowder of old—charcoal, sulphur, and potassium nitrate. Then, imagine tiny pockets filled with metal bits, waiting for their cue. When the moment comes, they ignite, react with air, and—voilà!—heat makes them shine their colourful lights.

Think of it like heating up steel—it glows yellow when it’s hot, right? That’s what happens up there in the sky, but with a rainbow of colours.

Wondering how the show starts? 

It’s simple:

You light the fuse and watch the heat zip down to the firework’s belly, where a charge lifts it into the air. Once it’s high enough, a second fuse says ‘It’s showtime!’ and triggers the explosion. That’s when those little metal-laden stars inside burst open, painting the sky.

Each little pellet, or ‘star,’ has its own mix—some have metal salts for colours, and others have special chemicals for effects like twinkles and whistles. And the bangs and pops? Just a pinch of a different chemical.

So, as Diwali’s twinkling lights approach, our eyes are drawn to the sky, lit by the mesmerising dance of Diwali fireworks. It’s a dance of elements, choreographed by chemistry and the ingenious design of those who pack each spark with care. Every burst of light is a cosmos of particles, joining in a fleeting performance that draws gasps and cheers.

And while we revel in the spectacle, let’s not forget to handle those Diwali crackers with respect. Safety first, as we celebrate the festival of lights, enjoying the wonder of firework science and the fiery ballet of burning metals.


 For more fascinating journeys through the wonders of science, remember to stay tuned with Param Science Blogs—where fun and learning meet in a burst of knowledge!