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Blog

Homemade Sparklers

6/02/16

Homemade Sparklers

By Adventure Science Center

Do you have any fun 4th of July plans with friends and family? Whether you’re cooking out or enjoying time by the pool, you can enchant your guests with these easy-to-make sparklers!

Materials

  • 60 milliliters hot water
  • 36 grams potassium nitrate (KNO3) – i.e., stump remover
  • 24 grams sugar (or sucrose) – granulated table sugar is fine
  • cotton yarn (NOT synthetic, like acrylic)
  • clothespins, alligator clips, tongs or a heat protectant glove to hold the sparkler (or you can dip the ends in wax)
  • Scissors
  • Cookie sheet

Procedure

  1. Mix the water, potassium nitrate and sugar to dissolve the dry chemicals.
  2. Soak around 3 meters of yarn in the mixture.
  3. Arrange the yarn on a cookie sheet to make lines. You’ll be drying the mixture, then cutting the yarn to make straight stick shapes, so don’t worry about u-turns.
  4. Either let the yarn dry on its own, or use a relatively cool oven to dry the sparklers. For the latter option, set your oven to 300°F for about 20 minutes, pulling them away from the pan after 5-10 minutes to prevent sticking. Warning: if you forget to remove them from the oven, they will eventually smoke (a lot) and catch fire. Please use caution.
  5. Once the string is dry and cool, use scissor to cut into straight pieces. Your sparklers are made! Use a gloved hand, a clip or other device to prevent burning your fingertips.

Explanation

A sparkler consists of several substances:

  • An oxidizer
  • A fuel
  • Iron, steel, aluminum, or other metal powder
  • A combustible binder

In addition to these components, colorants and compounds to moderate the chemical reaction also may be added. Often, firework fuel is charcoal and sulfur. Sparklers simply may use the binder as the fuel. The binder is usually sugar, starch, or shellac. Potassium nitrate or potassium chlorate may be used as oxidizers. Metals are used to create the sparks. Sparkler formulae may be quite simple.

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