The Elements of Pyrotechnics

I couldn’t go through a series of 4th of July fun without including a little science education. I must admit, I don’t remember a whole lot of my high school chemistry class. (I remember the chemistry, bonding and whatnot, so it couldn’t have been a total loss.) But... the day we got to play with fire is a clear memory. No, I wasn’t a budding pyromaniac. I was just fascinated that different chemicals could produce different colors of flame.

Nova is refreshing my happy memories with a periodic table of pyrotechnic elements. While this interactive table doesn’t actually let you set anything on fire, it lists the various elements that are used in fireworks. (Click to visit the actual clickable table).


So, tonight, if you’re watching the displays, think about the elements that went into those lovely colors.

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Which chemical makes people have to use illegal fireworks?

That would be alcohol, Jeff.

That interactive is horrid! It's riddled with omissions and errors.

For instance: Phosphorous is hardly used at all in pyrotechnics. Ditto Lithium and Sodium.

And Chlorine is used all over the place because most colors in fireworks are produced by ionized metal chlorides. Yet there is no entry for it.

Wow... how disappointing. You'd think Nova would do better. Thanks for letting me know, Gibbon. Maybe next 4th of July I'll do a little research and make my own chart.