Category Archives: Firework Facts

Did you know?

Did you know that fireworks including elements of all of the following disciplines:

• Chemistry
• Physics
• Aerospace engineering
• Materials sciences
• Fire science
• Psychology
• Neurosciences
• Risk management

Basically, fireworks are a clever and ancient combination of elements packed into a tube and burnt causing a chemical reaction which is dependent on the chemicals used.

Fireworks started out as being used to scare away evil spirits but soon they cottoned onto the idea that they would cause damage and were thereafter used as weapons.

Research into ‘greener’ fireworks is gathering pace as they replace some of the more noxious substances like potassium perchlorate within fireworks to Nitrogen based alternatives which they hope will retain the same impact of colours and effects without any of the toxicity issues.

The planning of a professional fireworks show is more about maths and muscle than anything else. Professional firers have to establish safety distances for each item as they can differ massively dependant on the type, size and shape of shell or mine being utilised.

Given the various scientific disciplines involved and that we are just over 6 miles from the City of Sheffield’s fantastic Hallam University, one of the country’s top ten places to study Chemistry in the UK, it is not unsurprising that we get visits from the students and their families en route. One young man, called in on his way to the Halls of Residence and collected some firework paraphernalia for his walls!

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Epic Look at Firework Facts

The epic fireworks team take a look at some amazing firework facts.

Here we go…

• China records the earliest documented fireworks use in 7th century China. A cool Chinese monk known as Li Tian invented fireworks by accident !

• The firework arrived in Europe in the mid 13th century with the explorer Marco Polo.

• Fireworks arrived in the USA in the mid 19th century.

Colours were not introduced into firework composition until the 19th century in Europe. Germany looked into the physics/chemistry of fireworks to add noise and streamline them and Italy added salts/chemicals/metals to create the colours:

aluminium (or magnesium or titanium) … silver / so-called electric white

barium (chloride) … green (in this case color comes from chloride)

calcium (chloride) … orange

cesium (chloride) … indigo blue

copper (chloride) … blue (this color is hardest to achieve)

lithium (carbonate) … red

potassium (nitrate) … purple

sodium (nitrate) … gold / yellow

strontium (carbonate) … red (brighter than lithium)

• Fireworks are mentioned in the writings of William Shakespeare.

• Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed fireworks so much that she created the role of ‘Fire-master’ within her staff.

• Many of the biggest display companies in the USA are descendants from the families arriving from Italy in the 18th Century.

China still exports more than 90% of all fireworks produced globally.

• First recorded use of fireworks in the UK were at the wedding of King Henry the VII.

• Most of the fireworks produced in China are from a single region, Hunan.

• Sparkler related injuries account for over 80% of accident and emergency visits annually.

• A standard sparkler burns at temperatures in excess of 1500 degrees C.

• Most of the firework effects are named after flowers: Chrysanthemum, Peony, Willow and Palm.

• The yeoman of the guard at the Houses of Parliament, continue to search the cellars by candlelight. It’s a pity (or not if you are in the industry or just love fireworks) that this practice was not adopted until 1678, some 73 years after Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were caught.

• The UK consumer spends around £15 million annually on fireworks.

• Globally, the annual bill for pyrotechnics is around £200 million.

• The biggest rocket ever launched was am impressive 29.5lb and was fired in Portugal on 13th October 2010. It was an astonishing 7 metres long and the head of the rocket over 2 feet across!

• The World record for the most rockets fired in 17 seconds is 125,801 by Pyroworks International Incorporated (Philippines) on 8th May 2010.

• The biggest firework display was in Kuwait on 10th November 2012 for the 50th anniversary of the constitution. Over 77,000 fireworks were launched in 64 minutes but this was recently beaten by Dubai in a New Years Eve spectacular when they lit over 470,000 fireworks.

• The largest Catherine Wheel ever successfully lit and rotated was over 105 feet in diameter in Malta on 18th June 2011.

• Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes night) is exclusive to the UK but in Eire, they celebrate the 11th night, an annual protestant celebration to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne with bonfires on 11th July annually.

• Scandinavia has a ‘bonfire night’ called ‘Walpurgis Night’ which falls 6-months after all hallows eve and thereby more likely to be relating to pagan festivals. This event is also widely celebrated across Europe.

• There are 4 firework categories in the UK:
o Cat 1 – Indoor Fireworks
o Cat 2 – Garden Fireworks
o Cat 3 – Display Fireworks
o Cat 4 – Professional Fireworks

• Fireworks, in particular rockets are being used increasingly to scatter the ashes of lost loved ones. There are a number of UK companies now stocking this type of device.

• The biggest chocolate firework ever created was 3 metres high and 1.5m in diameter and contained 60 kilo’s of swiss chocolates.

• It was illegal not to celebrate Bonfire Night in England right up until 1959.

• Half of all firework injuries which occur are to the under 16’s.

• Throwing fireworks carries a fine of £5000.00

• The largest single firework ever launched was just less than 50 inches across and reached a spectacular altitude of almost 2500 feet and the burst over a kilometre across in Japan in 1988.

• Hanabi is the Japanese word for fireworks which translate literally as ‘fire-flower’.

• Fireworks are widely used around the world today in both religious festivals and personal events like births, marriages, anniversaries and birthdays along with the usual New Year’s Eve celebrations.

• Light travels a million times faster than sound so it is commonplace to see the effect before you hear it!! If you want to see how high they are, as soon as you see the flash, count the seconds until you hear the ‘boom’ and then divide by 3 to calculate the distance in kilometres.

• There are several international ‘firework competitions‘ both in the UK and around the world.

• The UK have a number of ‘Bonfire Societies’, most of which were established before the Gunpowder Plot in deference to the slaying of the Lewes Martyrs which continue to hold ‘bonfire society’ events through from the end of September to early December annually.

• Guy Fawkes was a Yorkshireman and was not actually the person who was in charge, that was Robert Catesby who was shot with a single bullet which passed through both himself and Thomas Percy.

How many did you know ?

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How Fireworks Really Work

Have you ever wondered how fireworks work, well we found the perfect infographic called ‘Beyond the Boom’?

The firework infographic looks at the up and coming 4th July celebrations and explains mind-boggling facts, for example, did you know that the American firework industry makes nearly $1 BILLION annually.

Beyond the Boom – How Fireworks Work
Infographic by Ghergich & Co.

It also dissects a firework to show how they work in the night sky, how high they go, the different speeds and the performance of the different sized shells.

Another interesting aspect is the breakdown of some of the biggest and amazing fireworks displays around the USA like Macy’s firework spectacular.

The video below by Dr Nikolay Gerasimchuk, who is a professor of chemistry at Missouri State University, explains a little more about the chemical reactions of propellants and explosives inside fireworks.

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