The Science of Fireworks

By July 4, 2007General

Last weekend, our “Cool Stuff Being Made” video featured Zambelli Fireworks Internationale, America’s premiere fireworks manufacturers. The presentation dealt a lot with the family side of the business, and some viewers were left wanting to know more about manufacturing and use of pyrotechnics. Well, never let it be said …

“It can take anywhere from 10 hours to two weeks to set up a show,” says Marcy Zambelli, executive vice president of Zambelli Internationale, a 114-year old company that counts Disney theme parks, the Kentucky Derby and the Super Bowl among its clients—and even holds the world record for launching fireworks from the highest altitude ever. “We produce 1800 shows for the Fourth of July each year, and use more than 1 million shells doing it.”

Each of those shells still makes its way to the sky just as it did over 100 years ago, when Antonio Zambelli immigrated to the United States with a black book full of secret fireworks recipes—that he packed by hand. “You have to be very careful that you don’t create any type of spark,” says Zambelli. The multi-break shells can range from 3 in. to 12 in. in diameter and weigh between 1 and 60 lbs. A single projectile is packed with a mixture of potassium nitrate, sulfur and charcoal known as “black powder,” which acts as both a propellant and a bursting charge.

That’s from a Popular Mechanics feature story, “Science of Fireworks: Synched-Up CPUs, 2000-Year Secrets Light Up the 4th.” Wonder what color CPUs burn as?

Parents, be sure to read this before viewing tonight’s show — You’ll impress your kids.

(Hat tip, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who is always finding good stuff in Popular Mechanics. Because there’s always good stuff.)

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