Categories: Christmas , News | 1 Comment
My idea of the perfect celebration at Christmas or the New year involves chemistry that has been around for centuries. I’m talking about loud bangs, whizzes and amazing colours – in my opinion fireworks are fantastic.
You may be thinking that fireworks would make an odd Christmas present, but I beg to differ. There are fireworks on the market that are designed for indoors, and I for one would love to receive a box in my Christmas stocking.
So how do fireworks work? Well heres the science bit. If you’ve ever seen a flame test at school, you will know that different metal salts when heated to combustion, produce different coloured flames. For example potassium salts produce reds and violets, whereas copper salts produce blues and greens.
Fireworks combine metal salts that produce vibrant colours with gunpowder that explodes when heated to the right temperature. Gunpowder is 75 per cent potassium nitrate, 15 per cent charcoal (carbon) or sugar, and 10 per cent sulfur. The charcoal or sugar is the fuel, the potassium nitrate is the oxidizer, and sulfur moderates the reaction. Carbon (from the charcoal or sugar) plus oxygen (from the air and the potassium nitrate) forms carbon dioxide and energy. Potassium nitrate, sulfur, and carbon react to form nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases and potassium sulfide. The pressure from the expanding nitrogen and carbon dioxide explode the wrapper around the firework and a loud bang and colourful explosion occurs when the wrapper is blown apart.
Indoor fireworks work on the same principle, but have to take into account more strigent safety consideration when setting fireworks off indoors, which can lead to all kinds of problems.
So, in my quest to try out some indoor fireworks, the nice people at Indoor Fireworks Ltd, kindly sent me a selection box, for purely journalistic research you understand.
All my attempts to gain information about the ingredients of the fireworks were thwarted – apparently the world of indoor firework design is cut-throat. A spokesman for Indoor Fireworks Ltd explained that the company had invested a lot of time and money in the design of their fireworks and therefore to publish the secrets would aid their competitors.
Four Snakes Alives: On ignition the tablet will continuously expand into a slithering snake
Four Blazing Bengals: The Bengal matches burn long and bright
Two Sizzling Strobes: Exciting orange tinged fast strobing flash pellets
Two Ice Fountains: Bright silver sparks shower out of the tube
Three Disco Infernos: Pellets glow with a blue tinged flame before bursting into a bright flash over and over
Three Flash Gordons: Each tablet burns bright before bursting into swirling green flashes
Two Puff the Magic Dragons: Ignite his smoking nostrils of terror and watch him puff away
Five indoor Sparklers
Due to Health and Safety regulations, I was unable to test the fireworks out in the office, but as a journalist dedicated to my job, I took the box home to use in my flat. In line with my chemistry education, I first read the instructions on the box, and then moved all flammables away from the area (including the curtains). Simply placing the pellet/tablet fireworks on a non-flammable surface such as a plate (don’t use the best china) and lighting them with a match ignites the fireworks. Standing the Ice Fountains, Blazing Bengals and Sparklers in sand in a tub to stabilise them, and then lighting them works a treat too.
I have embedded three of the best videos I took of the fireworks below and dotted pictures at intervals throughout the blog. My favourite by far were the Ice Fountains as they produced the biggest effect, the sparklers also didn’t disappoint and the Snakes Alive pellets were interesting to say the least!
My last bit of advice to anyone thinking of purchasing a box of indoor fireworks is to set off a few at the same time and experiment with combinations, just like with outdoor fireworks – thats how you get the best effect.
With all this in mind, all thats left for me to do is sign off and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Enjoy the festivities!!