What Kind of Simple Chemical Reaction Occurs in Fireworks?

  posted by: Rio Dianne



What Kind of Simple Chemical Reaction Occurs in FireworksI’m pretty sure that you’ve been to a couple of fireworks display, say during New Year’s Eve or even at an amusement park, and you’ve been totally awed by how impressive the fireworks were. Most people, especially the young ones always enjoy the spectacular explosions and exciting colors of fireworks.  On the other hand, there is more than the brilliant light displays that you see.  These incredible explosions are particularly assembled and cautiously calibrated in order to come up with a specific effect.  That’s why in this post, we’ll let you understand the mechanisms of how fireworks produces that remarkable colors and forms.  We’ll also tell you what kind of simple reaction occurs in fireworks.  So stick with us, okay?

Starting off, what type of simple chemical reaction occurs in fireworks ?  To make fireworks explode, there are actually several chemical reactions that occur including –oxidation, reduction, and incandescence.  To put it in simple terms, the fireworks burn, explode, and come out with impressive colors.

Redox Reaction

What you see and what you hear during fireworks display are the result of chemical reactions – oxidation and reduction. You can also call it as the redox reaction. The oxidation reaction is the oxygen being produced. Oxidizers produce the oxygen needed to burn the reducing agents causing excitement to the compounds to emit light. Some basic oxidizers found in fireworks are chlorates, nitrates, and perchlorates. Oxidation-reduction reaction occurs in all fireworks explosions. Sulfur and carbon are some of the reducing agents which combine with the oxygen from the oxidizers to promote the energy of explosion.

Gun powder or black powder which is made up of 75% potassium nitrate, 15% charcoal, and 10% sulfur is a major component of fireworks, and burning gun powder causes the redox reaction.


Incandescence, on the other hand, is a much basic and easy chemical reaction. This reaction takes place when an object gets hot, and then it changes and emits off light. Particles from the fireworks when heated to high temperatures emit radiation. Incandescence is responsible for the white colors, and a bit of blue which people often see in fireworks.

To achieve a much brighter color, it takes a small increase in temperature. Magnesium and other reactive metals produce flares of white light. You can also achieve this when aluminum and perchlorate explode. Charcoal and iron particles result in emission of gold colored sparks.


So how do fireworks manufacturer achieve those striking colors once the fireworks are lit up? Remember that inside a firework, there are gunpowder/ black powder and stars where metal salts are put. The stars are responsible for the production of the colors, as well as the bright light in the fireworks. The colors are produced by the oxidation-reduction reaction. Below is the combination of metals and salts to produce different colors of the fireworks:

  • Red: strontium and lithium salts
  • Orange: calcium salts
  • Yellow: sodium compounds
  • Gold: iron and charcoal
  • Green: barium and chlorine
  • Purple: copper and strontium
  • Blue: copper and chlorine

The stars, when ignited, produce the light and sound effects. Starting from the lift-off to color release, the manufacturers have cautiously planned a sequence of events to take place.

Now, whenever someone asks you what kind of chemical reaction occurs in fireworks, you’ll be confident enough to answer their questions.  Hope this article has helped you.


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One Response

Karl Says:August 7th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Nice~ just wondering though, how do I put the chemical equation of the chemistry of fireworks. Thanks, it’d be great of you help me.

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