Fireworks are a colorful display on summer nights. Have you ever wondered about the chemistry of those bright colored explosions? The colors produced depend on the elements added to the firework before they are launched. This periodic table of fireworks highlights the common elements used to produce colors and effects.
Elements Used in Fireworks
Element 3: Lithium
Lithium is used to add red color to a firework. The most common form of lithium used is lithium carbonate, Li2CO3.
Element 6: Carbon
Carbon is typically black in color, making it useless for night sky displays. It serves as the fuel for the combustion of the firework. It is also important in fireworks as a component of black powder. Black powder is used as the propellant to launch the firework into the sky. Carbon is also found in the ash of black snakes fireworks.
Element 8: Oxygen
Oxygen does not impart a color to fireworks, but oxygen is essential to cause the reactions that produce the colors. It is also the main element in the combustion of the firework.
Element 11: Sodium
Sodium burns with a bright yellow color. Common table salt NaCl is often used for yellow color in a firework.
Element 12: Magnesium
Magnesium imparts a bright white light when burned. Magnesium chloride, MgCl2 is used to produce bright sparks and enhance the brilliance of a firework.
Element 13: Aluminum
Aluminum metal is used to produce silver colored sparks. The most common use of this in fireworks is the sparkler.
Element 17: Chlorine
Chlorine is a common component of the metal salts used to produce colors in fireworks. It is also found in many of the oxidizing agents used to fuel the combustion reactions.
Element 19: Potassium
Potassium is a component of many of the oxidizers used in fireworks. Potassium chlorate (KClO3), potassium nitrate (KNO3) or saltpeter, and potassium perchlorate (KClO4) are all common oxidizers used as fuel for propellants and combustion.
Element 20: Calcium
Calcium is used to produce an orange color to fireworks. Adding calcium to a firework also deepens the colors produced in the combustion.
Element 22: Titanium
Titanium metal is added to produce silver colored sparks.
Element 26: Iron
Iron is added to produce sparks. The color of the sparks depends on the temperature of the burning iron. The color can range from red to bright orange in fireworks.
Element 29: Copper
Burning copper salts are responsible for the blue colors seen in fireworks.
Element 30: Zinc
Zinc metal is used to produce smoke effects in fireworks.
Element 38: Strontium
Strontium salts are used to produce red in many fireworks. Strontium is also used to stabilize the chemical mixtures in fireworks.
Element 51: Antimony
The glitter effect seen in many fireworks is produced by burning antimony.
Element 56: Barium
Barium salts produce green in fireworks. The common barium salt used is barium chloride, BaCl2. Barium is also used to stabilize firework mixtures.