Want Your Fireworks in Red White & Blue? Try Strontium, Aluminum, Copper and a touch of Arsenic!

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Article Contributed by
Jamestown Gazette Staff
Fun with Chemistry Department

It takes something special to make all those Oooohs! and Ahhhs! on the 4th of July. Love that a brilliant red, white & blue, flag-colored starburst hanging up there in the night sky? Fireworks do it with metal.

Strontium is a silvery metal that can explode when you put it in water – or in another form – it can help your doctor do your heart test in the hospital. But it burns bright red when you put it in a bomb atop a rocket full of gunpowder. That’s the good part.

The fireworks’ bright, electric white stars and streamers are a simple matter, too. Just set fire to a pile of aluminum chips and flakes and powder. But don’t worry, that aluminum ball point pen you just took from your doctor’s office after that heart test won’t burst into flame. And if you don’t have enough aluminum, put some of your spare magnesium or barium into your chipper. It will work just as well.

For that brilliant blue in your flag colored fireworks you’ll need copper. But it is a special copper chemical called Paris Green. Who would guess it has a bit of arsenic in it, too? Do not try this at home.

So, on this 4th of July why not head on out to your favorite park or hillside or scenic overlook and enjoy the spectacle. Bring lots of Oooos and Ahhhhs with you and share them all around. Chautauqua County will have lots of fireworks this year, every one even better than all the others.

Happy 4th of July from your Jamestown Gazette. Enjoy the show!