Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

The Fireworks Blues

PostedJuly 3, 2004

Download File (mp3)

Creating a rocket's red glare is easy.  Blow up bits of strontium carbonate in the right packaging and voila!  But you may have noticed that pyrotechnicians have had trouble with their blues, traditionally produced by burning copper compounds.  John Conkling, a Washington College chemist, says copper needs just the right temperature to spew blue.  It's often washed out in white-hot firework bursts.  Chemical engineers have come up with a new fuel for igniting fireworks, a combination of magnesium and aluminum that burns hot but not bright, allowing a true blue to show through.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.