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Pyrotechnics comes from the Greek "PYRO" meaning Fire and "Techne" meaning Art. The beginnings of Pyrotechnics can be traced back to the development of gunpowder. When Saltpeter, Charcoal and Sulfur were first mixed one can say the art of Pyrotechnics was born. Fireworks as we recognize it today was a natural development from these beginnings. The beauty and pleasure derived from a fireworks display ( probably started with the Chinese, Greek or people of India) was but a forerunner of military applications over many centuries. While we easily recognize the devastating effects of military applications the layman rarely recognizes or understands the part played by Pyrotechnics in peaceful scientific fields. Today we can find Pyrotechnics art in escape mechanisms for spacecraft, ignition systems and booster separation for space ventures. Such development among many others rarely reach the layman's mind. If we were to think of just everyday uses such as road flares, detonation material for construction purposes, the simple match or any other form resulting in the release of energy we can put Pyrotechnics in better perspective. Thus the art of Pyrotechnics engages many people in many fields devoted to constructive purposes for mankind. Since this field started with what is usually termed "Fireworks"( the basis of all Pyrotechnics) the following should provide the groundwork for chemistry into the art.

Fireworks manufacture consists of utilizing the following type of products:

  1) Fuels 6) Color Producing Agents
  2) Oxidizing Agents 7) Stabilizers
  3) Solvents & Lubricants 8) Color and Light Substances
  4) Binding Agents 9) Phlegmatizers
  5) Smoke Producing
 10) Accelerating &
       Retarding Agents

For instance, signaling devices that involve noise and/or smoke involve some of each of the following chemicals:

  Ammonium Nitrate Potassium Nitrate
  Ammonium Oxalate Red Phosphorous
  Potassium Chlorate Red Gum
Experienced pyrotechnicians, using the proper procedures and mixtures are able to evolve a product suiting exacting needs for an application. Other examples as in the case of smoke development involves the use of:
  Red Smoke Green Smoke
  Potassium Perchlorate Sodium Bicarbonate
  Antimony Sulfide Potassium Chlorate
  Gum Arabic Sulfur
  Rhodamine Red Green Dye
There are certain cautions which must be mentioned, since this field is one requiring careful regard and reminders. This concerns use of Potassium Chlorate. Only experienced pyro-technicians should use Potassium Chlorate as a mixture with Sulfur and Sulfides; Ammonium Salts; Phosphorous, Pitch or Asphalt; Picric Acid or Picrates; Fine metal powders or Gallic Acid. Chlorates and Oxalates also present dangerous conditions. By and large Potassium Perchlorate eases some of the problems that are attributable to Potassium Chlorate, however, even with Potassium Perchlorate, Sulfur and Sulfides, Phosphorous, Picric Acid and Picrates and Fine metal powders should be avoided.

To offer a generalized idea of some of the uses, of some of the products used in the field of Pyrotechnics the following will offer insight:


Listed below are some of the more common uses in the Fireworks Industry. The experienced Pyrotechnician has knowledge of the principal compositions required in this highly dangerous field and the information listed is but a generalized sphere of application.

 Ammonium Perchlorate Blue and Red Colors and propellants
 Anthracene Black Smoke
 Antimony White Fire, ignition and glitter effects
 Barium Carbonate Reduces acid formation in mixtures and speed of composition
 Barium Chlorate Deep Green Colors
 Barium Nitrate Silver effects and Green Colors
 Boric Acid Prevents decompostions of mixtures containing Aluminum
 Calcium Carbonate Neutralizer
 Calcium Oxalate Gives depth of color to mixtures of Sodium Nitrate and Magnesium
 Calcium Silicide Smoke Composition
 Castor Oil Protection for Magnesium and as a binder to reduce friction
 Copper Carbonate Blue Colors
 Cupric Oxide Blue Colors and ignition
 Cryolite Yellow Color
 Gum(Red) Binder
 Gum Arabic Adhesive
 Gum Tragacanth Adhesive
 Hexachlorobenzene Chlorine donor in color mixtures, Flares
 Hexachloroethane Smoke Compositions
 Iron Oxide Thermite and incendiary compositions and ignition
 Laminac 4116 Flare Candles
 Lamp Black Golden Fountain effects
 Lead Dioxide Ignition
 Magnesium High candle powder, silver spark and noise effect
 Magnesium Carbonate Promotes free flowing effect for Potassium Chlorate or Perchlorate
 Paris Green Blue Colors
 Potassium Chlorate White smoke, bursting charges
 Potassium Nitrate Brown, Green and Violet smoke, Black Powder Constituent
 Potassium Perchlorate Substitute for Potassium Chlorate to improve mixture stability
 Silicon Ignitor
 Sodium Nitrate With Magnesium it aids in flare illumination, Yellow Color
 Sodium Oxalate Yellow colors and glitter effects with Aluminum and Antimony
 Stearic Acid Reduces friction and lengthens flame time
 Strontium Carbonate Red Flares and Stars
 Strontium Oxalate Red Flares and Stars
 Sugar(Lactose) Blue Colors, low temperature aid and smoke with Organic Dyes
 Titanium Silver Effect
 Titanium Dioxide Smoke Composition
 Zinc Oxide Smoke Composition and Stabilizer
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