Fireworks are only possible because of quantum physics - Deepstash

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Fireworks!

Fireworks!

Although they're remarkable for a number of reasons, launching high into the air and detonating to produce spectacular, colored light patterns, there's more than just combustion occurring when it comes to fireworks. The explosions that occur, as well as their unique and vibrant colors, are driven by quantum transitions that occur all the way down at the level of atoms. 

This 4th of July, or any time when fireworks are set off, you should appreciate just how intricately nature needs to work in order to produce these luminous displays that entertain us so thoroughly.

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The Chemistry Of Fireworks

The Chemistry Of Fireworks

  • Since fireworks were first invented more than a millennium ago, three simple ingredients have been at the heart of them: sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate.
  • With all those ingredients mixed together, there's a lot of stored energy in the molecular bonds holding the different components together.
  • The more stable configuration that these atoms and molecules could be rearranged into, the more energy is released.

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How Fireworks Work

How Fireworks Work

When that first energy release occurs, conventionally known as the lift charge, it has two important effects

The lift charge imparts an impulse, causing an acceleration, to the remainder of the firework, which includes the other three components.

This upwards acceleration needs to give your firework the right upwards velocity to get it to a safe height for the explosion, and the fuse needs to be timed appropriately to detonate at the peak launch height.

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The Mystery Of Colours

The Mystery Of Colours

When you apply enough energy to an atom or molecule, you can excite or even ionize the electrons that conventionally keep it electrically neutral. When those excited electrons then naturally cascade downward in the atom, molecule or ion, they emit photons, producing emission lines of a characteristic frequency. If they fall in the visible portion of the spectrum, the human eye is even capable of seeing them.

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Enter Quantum Physics

Enter Quantum Physics

What determines which emission lines an element or compound possesses? It’s simply the quantum mechanics of the spacing between the different energy levels inherent to the substance itself.

As applied to fireworks, there are a great variety of elements and compounds that can be utilized to emit a wide variety of colours. Different compounds of Barium, Sodium, Copper and Strontium can produce colours covering a huge range of the visible spectrum, and the different compounds inserted in the fireworks’ stars are responsible for everything we see.

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CURATED BY

damien_i

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein

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