'Green' fireworks may brighten eco-friendly 4th of July displays in future

Jun 22, 2009
This picture shows a spectacular fireworks display on July 4, 2008, over New York City's East Village. Credit: Wikipedia Commons, David Shankbone

With millions of people in the United States eagerly awaiting those July 4 fireworks displays — and our Canadian neighbors doing likewise for their July 1 Canada Day celebrations — here's a prospect for those light shows of the future likely to ignite a smile on Mother Nature's face: A new generation of "green" fireworks is quietly making its way toward the sky.

That's "green" as in environmentally friendly.

Fireworks, flares and other so-called "pyrotechnics" traditionally have included potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer, a material that provides the oxygen that fireworks need to burn. Perchlorate, however, is an environmental pollutant with potential adverse effects on people and wildlife. Pyrotechnics contain other ingredients, such color-producing heavy metals, with a similar potential.

Studies have shown that perchlorate from community fireworks displays conducted over lakes, for instance, can lead to perchlorate contamination of the water. For full details about how perchlorate contaminates lakes after fireworks displays, Click here for a study published in the American Chemical Society's peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

Researchers, however, have developed new pyrotechnic formulas that replace perchlorate with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose that burn cleaner and produce less smoke, according to an article in ACS's weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN). To read it, click here.

In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Bethany Halford says these nitrogen-rich formulas also use fewer color-producing chemicals, dramatically cutting down on the amount of heavy metals used and lowering their potentially toxic effects.

Some of these fireworks have already been used at circuses, rock concerts and other events, but none have been used at large outdoor displays. The problem: cost. The big challenge in launching these "eco-friendly" pyrotechnics into the sky is making them cost-competitive with conventional fireworks while maintaining their dazzle and glow, the article explains.

The article notes that fireworks manufacturers have little incentive to further develop the new green fireworks because no federal regulations currently limit releases of perchlorate from pyrotechnics.

Source: American Chemical Society (news : web)

Explore further: US northeast braces for flooding after record snow

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fireworks cause environmental pollution

May 29, 2007

U.S. government scientists say Fourth of July fireworks displays often held over lakes and other bodies of water can pollute the water with perchlorate.

Eco-Friendly Pyrotechnics

Mar 17, 2008

You know it is chemistry when it stinks and goes boom—and entrances us. “No other application in the field of chemistry has such a positive association for the general population as fireworks,” says Thomas Klapötke ...

Microorganism eating contaminants

Sep 02, 2005

ASU researcher Bruce Rittmann has found an environmentally friendly way to mitigate the human health threat from perchlorate drinking water contamination. Perchlorate is a component of solid rocket fuel.

Recommended for you

US northeast braces for flooding after record snow

6 hours ago

Weather forecasters and emergency officials warned Sunday that melting snow would lead to heavy flooding in parts of the US northeast, with hundreds of thousands of people told to brace for fast-rising waters.

3Qs: Game theory and global climate talks

Nov 21, 2014

Last week, China and the United States announced an ambitious climate agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions in both countries, a pledge that marks the first time that China has agreed to stop its growing emissions. ...

From hurricanes to drought, LatAm's volatile climate

Nov 21, 2014

Sixteen years ago, Teodoro Acuna Zavala lost nearly everything when Hurricane Mitch ravaged his fields, pouring 10 days of torrential rains on Central America and killing more than 9,000 people.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jjj000
3 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2009
......

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.