Bright Firework Future

Could burning fireworks cause cancer?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Every color of firework comes from a different chemical. Some have toxic byproducts. BUT! Finding safe replacement colors is hard. Some just don’t flash or sparkle right!  Is the idea of good nontoxic fireworks just a shiny pie in the sky?

Hannes Dettlaff and the U.S. Army Research Lab investigated.

Researchers tested if the chemical cerium ammonium nitrate, or C-A-N, could make blue fireworks flash. They ground up this affordable chemical with traditional firework materials. Then, they burned the mixture to see if it sparkled or flared in any patterns.


Flash! Bang! The C-A-N burned bright, then went dark, then went bright again–just like a good firework! They also added a preservative chemical to make sure it stayed dry over several weeks. Even with the additive, it flashed just like before!

AND YES it’s safer to burn!

Oooh… Ahhh…!

It’s looking like a bright future for fireworks!

Reference: Dettlaff, H., Dufter-Münster, A. M. W., Karaghiosoff, K., Klapötke, T. M., Müller, H. C., & Sabatini, J. J. (2022). Microscopic Studies and Application of a Stabilized Ceric Ammonium Nitrate Oxidizer in Environmentally Friendly Pyrotechnic Strobes. Inorganic Chemistry, 61(26), 9930–9934.