How Do Fireworks Work?

Every time the ASU football team scores a touchdown during home games, a quick burst of fireworks are shot into the sky.

I’ve always thought this was a little hypocritical. In college football, a player can be penalized for excessive celebration if he showboats after running into the end zone. But after every touchdown, ASU’s game operations staff is allowed to shoot off fireworks as an exclamation mark on the play.

So basically it is not okay for a running back to do a little dance after avoiding 11 angry 200 pounders who are looking to knock his head off, but it is okay for the school to literally shoot fire into the sky after their running back does all that work.

Following a touchdown at a recent ASU game, my brother Matt turned and asked me if I ever wonder how fireworks work.

My first thought was, “you mean it’s not magic? Are you trying to ruin my childlike innocence?”

But after thinking about it more, I really did start to wonder how people can shoot fire into the sky and have it explode into magnificent colors.

After looking up how fireworks work, I remembered that I was not very good at chemistry.

This About.com article explains how the different types of fireworks (firecrackers, sparklers & rockets/aerial shells) work.

If I read it correctly, it basically says that gunpowder + chemistry + nighttime = color explosion.

Check out this table that shows the compound that goes into making each firework color. I kind of always assumed that fireworks looked like little pool balls and to make different colors, you had to soak the ball in food coloring. So if you wanted a red firework you had to soak that ball in red food coloring.

I was way off. Who knew that fireworks were so complex.

Makes me wish I would have paid a little more attention in chemistry class.

So there you have it, Matt (and everyone else who ever wondered about fireworks). Hope you were able to learn something.

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