Topics: Fireworks, Gunpowder, Flash powder Pages: 11 (3868 words) Published: December 14, 2010
Whether it be the 4th of July, a day at Disneyland, or Chinese New Year, fireworks can be used to appeal to people of all ages, genders, and races. These low explosive pyrotechnic devices are primarily used for aesthetic or entertainment purposes. Fireworks come in various forms, including sparklers, firecrackers, basic fireworks, and ariel or display fireworks. Those who watch firework displays find that those can be broken into smaller categories by four primary effects. These effects include noise, light, smoke, and floating material. Because of the varying types available, it is common for fireworks to be classified by how they perform, whether it be on the ground or more commonly, aerial. The overall dangers associated with that particular kind of firework is another factor of classification as well. Although fireworks can be easily found in stores and on display, few people truly understand the physical and chemical properties that exist to cause a complex chemical combustion like this to occur. Due to the general public’s lack of awareness, it is common for severe injuries and even death to take place.

Despite the government’s best efforts to accurately classify fireworks, consumers still manage to get a hold of illegal fireworks without proper licensing and remain unaware of the potential dangers. In the United States, fireworks are classified as either consumer or display fireworks based upon the amount of pyrotechnic composition an item contains (“Firework”). Even with certain restrictions on fireworks, thousands of accidents occur each year. It is no doubt that fireworks are potentially dangerous for the person operating them and for bystanders alike, as they may even land on flammable material and cause a fire. As a result, a general understanding of firework composition and technology is almost necessary to ensure that a disaster is prevented. History

The art of fireworks originated in ancient China. It is believed that approximately 2000 years ago (Gondhia) in the Sung dynasty (Brockert), a Chinese cook accidently mixed KNO3 (or salt peter), sulfur, and charcoal. After heating these three ingredients, the cook found that when ignited, the black flaky powder created a loud bang. This fascinating black powder became known as huo yao (fire chemical) or gunpowder. It was later found that when the chef’s mixture was inserted into a hollow bamboo stick and thrown into a fire, an immense amount of pressure built up and blasted the tube apart to what became known as the firecracker.

Eventually, firecrackers began to play an essential role in Chinese festivals, such as weddings and religious rituals (Gondhia). It was widely believed that firecrackers could be used to chase away evil spirits during the New Year and Mid Autumn Moon festivals (“Firework”). Firecrackers were also gradually used in warfare and within a hundred years of its invention, fire arrows (arrows attached to bamboo firecrackers) and ground rats (propelling rats from inside bamboo firecrackers) were developed (Dotz 1994). In the thirteenth century (Alan), Marco Polo brought the invention of firecrackers to the Middle East. By the fourteenth century, Europe had managed to surpass China in fireworks technology (Brockert). Roger Bacon, one of the first Europeans to study gunpowder, was the first to write about the invention. Bacon had discovered that KNO3 was the force behind the explosion, yet wrote his findings in a code after realizing the potential he held to possibly revolutionize warfare for the worst. By 1560, European chemists finally discovered the correct proportion for the mixture. The ratio became known was 75% salt peter, 15% charcoal, and 10% sulphur- a ratio that still exists today. This discovery marked the end of medieval warfare(Gondhia).

The aesthetic aspect of development is credited to the Italians, who were able to develop aerial shells that when lit, burst into a fountain of color. Even today, many...

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