Everyone loves a firework display – but have you ever wondered how this links to your lessons about alkali metals?
Most historians believe that fireworks were invented in China, though some argue it was in the Middle East or India. At around 800 A.D. Chinese alchemists mixed together saltpeter (which contains potassium nitrate), sulfur and charcoal and made gunpowder. Once they made it they thought that these explosions would keep evil spirits away. To create some of the first fireworks, they would pack the gunpowder into bamboo shoots and throw the shoots into a fire.
An exploding firework is a number of chemical reactions happening simultaneously or in rapid sequence. When heat is added, enough activation energy is provided to make the chemicals inside the firework combust. Metal compounds known as metal salts give fireworks their colour. Different metal compounds give different colours. You can use alkali metals for this; sodium salts gives yellow and orange colours, lithium salts provides red colours. Other metal salts are used to provide different colours.
GCSE Science students – you need to be able to describe and explain the properties of alkali metals. Our new guide, “How to work with Alkali Metals” can help. Included, as always are questions to try, and answers to check your understanding.
To see the guide, click on the picture below.
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