GOLD

Is is Possible to Create Vibrant Firework Colors at Home?

Investigating the effect of chemical types and concentrations on flame colour in pyrotechnics.
Sebastian Keddy
Grade 6

Hypothesis

If I use information based on observed colours emitted from pure compounds to create vibrant flames, then I will be able to create deep colours, as a result of changing the concentration or chemicals based on my observations.

Research

This is My background Reserch

#1

It is very expensive to create vibrant fireworks and it is important to keep in mind when trying to synthesize firework colours at home. This topic has been researched for a long time, making it more difficult to produce something new.

The average Disney fireworks show can cost an estimated $30,000 to $50,000. Talk about expensive! In 2019 it is estimated that $1.3 BILLION dollars were spent on fireworks worldwide.

 

#2

 

Strontium chloride or strontium nitrate burns red,

calcium chloride burns orange,

barium chloride burns neon green,

sodium chloride (table salt) burns bright orange,

sodium borate (borax) burns light green,

copper sulfate or boric acid burns teal green,

copper chloride or butane burns navy blue,

potassium chloride burns indigo and

iron burns gold.

 

Excited electrons inside burning metal compounds are what cause the colors observed in fireworks. In the beginning, the electrons are at ground energy, but burning the compounds excites the electrons to a higher energy level. When the electrons return to a lower energy level, they emit the energy as colour.

 

#3

Fireworks launch when the lift charge, composed of black powder and other ingredients such as potassium nitrate, is ignited via a fuse cord. When creating the mixtures, it is important to not only design the colour, but to keep in mind that this is for something that flies and explodes.

#4

Once the fuse cord has reached the blast charge, the small shell burns out and the firework star(s) split away and explode. When this happens the air inside expands creating an explosion, burning the compounds inside the firework (and more specifically the stars).

 

Variables

Control variables:

•Chemical types
•Wind speed
•Flame temperature
•Ambient temperature
•Ambient pressure 
•Gas (flame source)
•Chemical concentration
•Test solution ratios

Independent  variable: The ratio of pure compounds in tested solutions

Dependent variable: The colour of the observed flame when burning pure compounds and test solutions

 

 

Procedure

This is the dilution and flame test procedure 

Acquire materials from the materials list (More will be shown in the video )

Dissolve .1g compounds to 5mL water

Dip nichrome wire in the compound solution

Turn on the flame source

Put the end of the wire which has the compound on it into the flame

Take pictures of the compound flames

Prepare hypothesized compound ratios to create desired colours of your choice i.e. teal, magenta, light green

If you do not get the results you want, try different ratios, adding 1 mL more at a time of the pure compound solutions of your choice

Take pictures of the compound flame

This is the synthesis procedure for copper chloride.  

 

Make sure the procedure is in a ventilated environment and is done by an adult

Gather hydrogen peroxide {H2O2}(30%), hydrochloric acid {HCl} (20%), a beaker, face shield, a gas mask, gloves, and several grams of copper wire.

Clean the copper of any coatings or protections i.e., sanding, chemical processing.

Put on the face shield, gas mask and gloves

Put the copper in the beaker. Make sure it fills up about a quarter of the space.

Fill up the beaker 1/3rd the way with the HCl. (This takes the copper into account)

Put in a very small amount of H2O2. The copper will turn black.

Keep adding small amounts of H2O2 periodically until the black material dissipates (Stirring or agitating the solution is recommended for a faster result).

 

Observations

The potassium chloride solution needed to be less dilute by adding more of the potassium salt.

Calcium chloride and sodium chloride were not as different as we thought. Heat seemed to get the compound salts to dissolve much quicker. Borax did not have a light green flame colour, instead, it was bright orange.

There was a sparkle effect with ferric (II) chloride. The sodium chloride had a similar effect (although it could have been contamination).

Compounds with chloride as the ion group did not seem to mix very well, if at all, possibly leading to transitions between each other. The two mixtures that required ferric (II) chloride burnt in three main stages: Crackle and light yellow (ferric compound), bright orange flame (carbon), vibrant blue (copper chloride compound). An example of this effect might have that the teal flame mixture was choppy and there was too much of a transition between the blue and the green to call it an adequate teal result. Adding copper sulphate seemed to very much reduce the transition between the two colours. Secondly, the Copper Sulfate seemed to reduce the transition between the blue and the green, suggesting that things don’t mix well if they had the same ion donor.

Lastly, butane would not be ideal to put in a firework since it is a hydrocarbon and is both too volatile and burns too fast.

Analysis

The following flame test results displayed in the tables below were observed visually, and were recorded photographically.

 

Name of compound

Compound formula

Expected colour

Actual colour

Calcium Sulfate 

CaSO4

Deep orange

Deep orange

Strontium Chloride

SrCl2

Bright red

Bright red

Copper Sulfate

CuSO4

Apple green

Faint orange

Calcium Chloride

CaCl2

Bright orange

Bright orange

Sodium Chloride

NaCl2

Bright yellow

Deep orange

Iron (II)Chloride

FeCl2

White-ish gold

Crackly white-ish orange

Butane

C4H10

Navy blue 

Deep blue

Copper (II)Chloride

CuCl2

Green-ish blue

Blue-ish green

Sodium tetraborate decahydrate (Borax)

Na2[B4O5(OH)4] •H2O

Light green

Bright orange

Potassium Chloride

KCl

Purple

 

Light lilac

 

 

Colour mixtures

First edition compound mixes

Final editons compound mixes

Magenta

Strontium chloride50% Copper chloride50%

Strontium chloride75% Copper chloride25%

Crackly light green

Iron chloride50% Copper chloride50%

Iron chloride50% Copper chloride50%

Teal

Copper chloride50%

Iron chloride25% Copper sulfate25%

Copper chloride33%

Iron chloride16% Copper sulfate50%

 

 

 

Conclusion

The hypothesis for this experiment was partially correct. Given the resources, the result of the test solution flame colours was comparable in terms of vibrancy to commercial grade fireworks. However, as mentioned in the background research section, producing a new solution to an old problem is difficult. People have been working on solutions for years to create inexpensive, bright colours. In this experiment though, a reasonable vibrancy was obtained.

 

Application

Having deeper, more saturated colours in the last stage of the firework is crucial to gaining a positive outside reputation which can lead to influxes in money, popularity and stockholders. This is why escalating the vibrancy in fireworks is important for entertainment companies.

Sources Of Error

Sources of error were:

  • Camera colour sensitivity (Observed colour did not accurately match the colour in the photos taken)
  • Chemical purity
    • As received from manufacturer
    • Copper chloride synthesis result
  • Cross contamination
    • Between samples on the nichrome wire
    • Carbon contamination (as result of not changing the nichrome wire frequently)
    • Tap water was used (This may have led to dust contamination or other things settling in the water)
  • Inexact compound concentrations

Citations

 

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/scibytes/the_science_behind_fireworks/

 

How do fireworks get their colors? (2020, July 4). Retrieved November 20, 2020, from   https://earthsky.org/human-world/how-do-fireworks-get-their-vibrant-colors

 

How fireworks work: Firework science. (2020, April 13). Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://www.explainthatstuff.com/howfireworkswork.html

 

 McIntyre, D. A. (2019, July 02). Fireworks sales to top $1.3 billion in 2019. Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/07/02/fireworks-sales-to-top-13-billion-this-fourth-july/39643137/

 

The Chemistry of Fireworks: Colors Bursting: 4th of July Science. (2020, February 06). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://learning-center.homesciencetools.com/article/fireworks-science/

 

The psychology behind Disney and other theme parks' fireworks shows. (2019, November 26). Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.tampabay.com/arts-entertainment/fun/theme-parks/2019/11/26/why-disney-and-other-theme-parks-have-such-giant-fireworks-shows/#:~:text=Although the exact cost is,a 120-minute ride line.

 

Acknowledgement

Acknowledgements to: my mom, Jina Burke-Keddy, for pushing me towards my goal and tips for slide development, my dad, Greg Keddy, for aiding me during the experiment phase and ensuring the process was done safely, my teacher, Neil Groves, for helping figure out my topic and giving suggestions to help me improve it and to the science fair school judges for giving me this opportunity.