Minerals, Metals, and Other Materials

Man-Made Products

How are colored fireworks made?

Fireworks existed in ancient China in the ninth century where saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal were mixed to produce the dazzling effects. Magnesium burns with a brilliant white light and is widely used in making flares and fireworks. Various other colors can be produced by adding certain substances to the flame. Strontium compounds color the flame scarlet, barium compounds produce yellowish-green, copper produces a blue-green, lithium creates purple, and sodium results in yellow. Iron and aluminum granules give gold and white sparks, respectively.


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