Which festival do you like the most? Well, if such a question comes to me, I have always come up with only one answer since childhood, Diwali! I know, you too will give the same answer.
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As soon as the bells of the festive season ring and Diwali is just around the corner, I always wait for my box of firecrackers. As one of the most entertaining forms of chemistry, fireworks appeal to our senses of sight and sound, offering a staggering variety of colours, sizes, shapes, sounds, and so on.
WHAT IS PYROTECHNICS?
We love to watch fireworks because they take our breath away with their magnificence and mystery. Working or making firecrackers comes under a branch of chemistry called Pyrotechnics.
As we grow up, our love towards crackers takes the next step in finding answers/reasons behind those sparkles and sounds.
Different Crackers contain different chemical compositions to give sparks, lights, sound, colour etc. Those chemicals are just similar to the chemical present in the head of a match stick. It contains Potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal(carbon). Certain terms like oxidisers and binders are commonly used in this.
THE COLOURS OF DIWALI
But what gives fireworks shows that extra pop of colour? Though the names of the chemicals may seem a bit complex I am sure every one of you would have been curious about how the firecrackers get their colours.
The colour is determined by the metal salts that are present in them (much like firecrackers and sparklers). When the metal salts react with heat, it excites the metal atoms to a higher energy state, and when the atoms relax back to their more stable state, they emit colours.
The wavelength of the light that is emitted when these atoms relax is characteristic of specific atoms. For example, strontium glows red, calcium salts burn orange, barium burns green, and sodium recreates a brilliant gold. Other colours can be created by mixing these metal salts, which is called “painting” in the fireworks trade.
THE METAL SALTS RESPONSIBLE FOR COLOURS:
White colour – Aluminium/Titanium/Magnesium salts
Green colour – Barium salts
Yellow/gold colour – Sodium salts
Blue colour – Copper salts
Orange colour – Calcium salts
Red colour – Strontium/Lithium salts
Purple colour – Strontium + Copper salts mixture
Smoke effects – Zinc
The Sound of Fireworks Make -The loud booms that are heard with the firework show are the result of the rapid release of energy in the air which then makes the air expand faster than the speed of sound. This creates a small sonic boom.
Guess what now our bounty is filled with knowledge about the science bursting behind crackers.
I am looking forward to my box of firecrackers this Diwali not only to enjoy but also to see the magic of Chemistry unveiled in front of my eyes. I will take care that my experiment does not harm our environment. I will also take precautions while lighting firecrackers as my family are with me, I will dress in apt clothes so my firecrackers do not hurt anyone.
Happy Diwali! Safe Diwali!
MADHAV K P
Chemistry Subject Expert
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