Chemistry of Fireworks

Periodic Table of Elements

Displaying chemical compounds used to make fireworks is not intended to be used as a guideline on how to make homemade fireworks, but rather as an educational tool to better understand the products that you purchase and what makes them perform.

Fireworks rely on the chemical characteristics of the elements that are used to make them. This special periodic table highlights the elements that have significance to fireworks and pyrotechnics.

Al Aluminum Aluminum is used to produce silver and white flames and sparks. It is a common
component of sparklers.
Ba Barium Barium is used to create green colors in fireworks, and it can also help stabilize
other volatile elements.
C Carbon Carbon is one of the main components of black powder, which is used as a
propellent in fireworks. Carbon provides the fuel for a firework. Common forms
include carbon black, sugar, or starch.
Ca Calcium Calcium is used to deepen firework colors. Calcium salts produce orange
Cl Chlorine Chlorine is an important component of many oxidizers in fireworks. Several of the metal
salts that produce colors contain chlorine.
Cu Copper Copper compounds produce blue colors in fireworks.
Fe Iron Iron is used to produce sparks. The heat of the metal determines the color of the
K Potassium Potassium helps to oxidize firework mixtures. Potassium nitrate, potassium
chlorate, and potassium perchlorate are all important oxidizers.
Li Lithium Lithium is a metal that is used to impart a red color to fireworks. Lithium
carbonate, in particular, is a common colorant.
Mg Magnesium Magnesium burns a very bright white, so it is used to add white sparks or improve the
overall brilliance of a firework.
Na Sodium Sodium imparts a gold or yellow color to fireworks, however, the color is often so
bright that it frequently masks other, less intense colors.
O Oxygen Fireworks include oxidizers, which are substances that produce oxygen in order
for burning to occur. The oxidizers are usually nitrates, chlorates, or
perchlorates. Sometimes the same substance is used to provide oxygen and color.
P Phosphorus Phosphorus burns spontaneously in air and is also responsible for some glow in
the dark effects. It may be a component of a firework’s fuel.
S Sulfur Sulfur is a component of black powder, and as such, it is found in a firework’s
Sb Antimony Antimony is used to create firework glitter effects.
Sr Strontium Strontium salts impart a red color to fireworks. Strontium compounds are also
important for stabilizing fireworks mixtures.
Ti Titanium Titanium metal can be burned as powder or flakes to produce silver sparks.
Zn Zinc Zinc is a bluish white metal that is used to create smoke effects for fireworks and
other pyrotechnic devices.