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8. Commonly Used Chemicals in Pyrotechnics: A-B


This article is from the Pyrotechnics FAQ, by Hans Josef Wagemueller zoz@cs.adelaide.edu.au with numerous contributions by others.

8. Commonly Used Chemicals in Pyrotechnics: A-B

Aluminium, Al -- Fuel

This is used in many compositions to produce bright white sparks or a
a bright white flame. There are many grades of aluminium available
for different spark effects. Most pyrotechnic compositions that involve
sparks use aluminium, e.g. sparklers, waterfalls etc.

Ammonium Nitrate, NH4NO3 -- Oxidiser

This is used very infrequently in pyrotechnics due to its hygroscopic
nature and the fact that it decomposes even at relatively low
temperatures. Even when dry, it reacts with Al, Zn, Pb, Sb, Bi, Ni, Cu,
Ag and Cd. In the presence of moisture it reacts with Fe. It reacts with
Cu to form a brissant and sensitive compound. It is best not to use any
bronze or brass tools when working with ammonium nitrate.

Ammonium perchlorate, NH4ClO4 -- Oxidiser

Used as an oxidiser in solid rocket fuels, most notably the solid booster
rockets for the Space Shuttle. Using it in a composition improves the
production of rich blues and reds in the flames. As with any ammonium
salt, it should not be mixed with chlorates due to the possible formation
of ammonium chlorate, a powerful and unstable explosive.

Anthracene, C14H10 -- Smoke Ingredient

Used in combination with potassium perchlorate to produce black smokes.

Antimony, Sb -- Fuel

The metal is commonly used in the trade as 200-300 mesh powder. It is
mainly used with potassium nitrate and sulphur, to produce white fires.
It is also responsible in part for the glitter effect seen in some

Antimony trisulphide, SbS3 -- Fuel

This is used to sharpen the reports of pyrotechnic noisemakers, e.g.
salutes. It is toxic and quite messy.

Barium salts -- Colouring Agents

Used to colour fires green. several are used:

Barium carbonate, BaCO3 -- Colouring Agent, Stabilizer

As well as being a green flame-colourer, barium carbonate acts as a
neutralizer to keep potentially dangerous acid levels down in pyrotechnic

Barium chlorate, Ba(ClO3)2.H2O -- Colouring Agent, Oxidiser

Used when deep green colours are needed. It is one of the more sensitive
chemicals which are still used, best to avoid if possible, but if used it
should be in combination with chemicals which will reduce its sensitivity.

Barium nitrate, Ba(NO3)2 -- Colouring Agent/Enhancer, Oxidiser

Not very strong green effect. Used with aluminium powder to produce
silver effects. Below 1000C aluminium burns silvery-gold, characteristic
of aluminium-gunpowder compositions. Above 1000C it burns silver, and may
be achieved using barium nitrate. Boric acid should always be used in
compositions containing barium nitrate and aluminium.

Barium oxalate, BaC2O4 -- Colouring Agent

Sometimes used, generally in specialised items with magnesium.

Boric acid, H3BO3 -- Stabilizer

This is a weak acid, often included in mixtures that are sensitive to
basic conditions, notably those containing aluminium.


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