Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Clean, Colorful Mist To Provide The Atmosphere For A Celebration.

By James Chen

Simply stated, smoke bombs are fireworks that produce a minimum of sparkle and a whole lot of smoke. The smoke can be sky blue, dark blue, yellow, green, purple, red orange or any combination of those colors.

You can find them sold in stores as smoke balls. These are spherical clay or cardboard gadgets that are sold at pyrotechnics stores. Additionally you will find models that are shaped like candles. The material that ignites is within the bomb itself and there may be holes in the device to allow the smoke to pass through. Shorter versions of the candle-type bomb are the tin-can models more frequently produced for the military.

Similar to the more dangerous versions of the bomb, smoke fireworks contain an oxidant and the fuel for maintaining the flame. The usual oxidant for smoke bombs is potassium nitrate (KNO3). This is a good oxidizing agent because it contains three atoms of oxygen. Sugar is used to fuel the combustion and produce the smoke. Sodium bicarbonate is also a required additive and serves to stabilize the reaction.

The chemical process that takes place involves the transfer of three oxygen atoms from the nitrate to the carbon atoms in the sugar. Heat initializes this reaction. The byproducts of the reaction are potassium carbonate and water, both of which emit white vapors. Additionally, chlorine and CO2 are also produced. Because the reaction itself is kept under control with the presence of sodium bicarbonate, no considerable amount of flame is produced. The smoke itself may be impregnated with multiple colors by the use of dyes which are usually organic in nature.

The chemical used for making gunpowder is not potassium nitrate. The chlorate of potassium is used for that. Minute quantities of potassium nitrate occur in our food. That is not to say that the substance is edible in considerable quantities. It can cause a burning itch if ingested. It is not poisonous or toxic in the sense that we understand those words.

Although potassium nitrate can easily oxidize materials which come in contact with it, it does not catch or burst into flame. It can, however rust metals and rot fruits. People who are in constant contact with it will have dry and itchy skin. However, no acute danger is associated with it.

The byproducts of the reaction are also quite harmless. Potassium carbonate is used for glazing porcelain and softening water among other things. Naturally, because of the carbon dioxide, these pyrotechnics, like all other forms of smoke can be unhealthy when used without discretion. But since the smoke from these bombs is not really that thick and does not float in concentrated quantities, they present little danger for contributing to global heating.

People find many uses for smoke fireworks. The most prevalent use of these gadgets is for enhancing the mood of celebrations with colored mists. The military uses them as camouflage screens. For this purpose the smoke needs to be really thick. Some games with a military theme, like airsoft and paintball make extensive use of these gadgets too. Likewise, they are employed in theatrical performances to provide the proper mood for certain scenes.

The powder for these bombs may be easily made at home if one has the right ingredients on hand. However, since there are certain risks involved, albeit minimal, it might be a better idea to purchase the ready-made powder off store counters. Just make sure that the store you are getting it from has earned a good reputation from people.


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