Chemistry in My Life

Katie Wheeler

Chemical Reactions

The chemical reaction that is used in fireworks is called oxidation. Oxidizers make the oxygen the firework needs to burn the reactants to make the firework work and to excite the atoms enough to make the firework a color. The most common oxidizers used are nitrates, chlorates, and perchlorates.

Nitrates are the most common of the oxidizers, they use black powder as a base and potassium nitrate, that breaks down into potassium oxide, nitrogen gas, and oxygen gas.

Chlorates are much more unstable than nitrates, but they make the firework have a more intense color. Chlorates are made up of the chlorate ion ClO3-.

Perchlorates are more stable than chlorates and are also able to release all of it's oxygen atoms. Perchlorates are made up of the perchlorate ion ClO4-.

Once oxygen is released by any one of these processes the black powder (sulfur and carbon) reacts to the oxygen and then makes sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide.


The main reactant in fireworks is black powder (sulfur and carbon) which is mixed with potassium nitrate. Calcium chloride and sodium nitrate are used for the color in fireworks, once they heat up they produce the color.

What Happens to the Byproducts

The byproducts of fireworks go into the air and water. The particles and chemicals in the smoke go into the air and can get into people lungs, the smoke can also contain greenhouse gases and that can add to the greenhouse effect. The byproducts of fireworks can also contaminate the water in lakes and rivers, if the residue from the fireworks is left on the ground and it rains the bad chemicals can be washed into rivers, lakes, and streams and contaminate them.

Environmental Impacts

The environmental impacts from fireworks are that they contribute to ozone depletion and they can contaminate our water supply.

Are the Reactions Endothermic or Exothermic?

The reactions of fireworks are exothermic due to the fact that they release light and heat.

Who is Affected by this Chemistry?

Fireworks are sold all over the world and are used in many cases for tradition, for example people in America use fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July every year. $940 million of fireworks are purchased per year, it is a big industry.

How Essential is the Chemistry?

The chemistry is the most important thing in fireworks. If the chemistry isn't right people would be blowing things up left and right because the balance of the reactants won't be right and there might be to mcuh black powder or not enough of something else.

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