How it Works Fireworks and Flares

Fireworks and flares are objects that can produce light through chemical reactions. Did you know that both have different meanings and are used in different situations? Nevertheless, on this occasion we will only study how fireworks and flares work, of course from the point of view of chemists.

Also read:  Fireworks


As the name implies, fireworks will produce fires that form like a flower / flower when it explodes. Fire and light generated from firework explosions have been studied from time immemorial. Although ancient people did not understand the chemical reactions that cause it, fireworks have been widely applied in various activities such as celebrations. Then, how do fireworks transform?

Fireworks use exothermic reactions to produce heat, light and sound. Common oxidants are nitrates and perchlorates, which decompose when heated to release oxygen. Common fuels are carbon, sulfur, aluminum or magnesium powder, and organic materials such as poly (vinyl chloride) (PVC), starch, and gum. The most common fireworks constituents are gunpowder or black powder, a mixture of potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal, and as such are oxidants and fuels. Special effects, such as color, flash, smoke, and sound, are provided by additives in the fireworks mixture. Element Group 2 is used in fireworks to give color.

source: pixnio

Barium compounds are added to fireworks to produce green fire. The species responsible for its color is BaCl, which is produced when the Ba + ion joins with the Cl− ion. Cl− ions are produced during decomposition of perchlorate oxidants or during burning of PVC fuels:


KClO 4 (s) → KCl (s) + 2O 2 (g)

KCl (s) → K + (g) Cl  (g)

Ba 2+ (g) Cl  (g) → BaCl + (g)


Barium chlorate, Ba (ClO 3) 2, has been used as a substitute for KClO 4 and barium compounds but is too unstable for shaking and friction. Similarly, strontium nitrate and carbonate are used to produce red color in the formation of SrCl +. Strontium chlorate and perchlorate effectively produce red but are too unstable for shock and friction for routine use.

Flare ( Flare)

Almost similar to how fireworks work. However, flares have a longer flame time. This allows it as a tool for lighting in a dark place for a few moments. In addition, this tool can also be used as a sign of distress or ask for help.


Distress flares also use strontium compounds. Strontium nitrate is mixed with sawdust, wax, sulfur, and KClO 4 and packaged in a waterproof tube. When ignited, the flame is burning with an intense red flame for up to 30 minutes. Besides being used as fuel, magnesium powder is added to fireworks and flares to maximize light output.

Like magnesium which produces strong white light, illumination is enhanced by incandescent high-temperature MgO particles produced in oxidation reactions.


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