PYROTECHNICS, more commonly known as fireworks, involve the reaction of different chemicals to produce different patterns and shapes up in the sky like the ones showcased during the annual Paskuhan.

Fireworks contain pyrotechnic “stars” or metal pellets, which have elements that allow it to exude different colors. Pyrotechnic stars usually contain four basic ingredients: fuel that allows the “star” to burn, an oxidizer needed to support the combustion of the fuel, metals like barium and copper, which are responsible for the colors of the fireworks, and a chemical usually dextrin, to keep a star intact. All ingredients are mixed within a shell and loaded into mortars launched to the sky through cannons.

Felicidad Christina Ramirez, a chemistry professor at the College of Science, said the mixture of metal elements is responsible for the different colors in a fireworks explosion. Among them are barium, which produces the color green, copper which produces blue, strontium for red, sodium that creates colors yellow and orange, and calcium, also for orange.

The “excitation” of atoms, which is triggered by the reaction of fuel and coloring agents, make the release of light possible, Ramirez said.

“Upon relaxation of the excited atoms, light is released to produce the desired colors,” she said. “The arrangement of the shell within the fireworks makes the different patterns and colors possible.”

Pyrotechnicians rely on physics to control the motion of fireworks since one mistake may cause the whole fireworks display to go awry.

According to, vectors and projectiles deal with the angle and motion of the fireworks as it is shot up the sky, while velocities and trajectory motions deal with time, speed and angle gravity.

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Every explosion is carefully timed to produce the best results, Ramirez said.

So now, as you watch the fireworks display during Paskuhan, tell yourself that the amazing show you are watching is not so simple after all—it requires precision and involves exact science.


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