In the design of a celebratory pyrotechnic (firework), there exists a gunpowder explosive charge at the center of the firework and pyrotechnic "stars" lining the circumference of the explosive. The "stars" are composed of an oxidizer and a fuel such as KNO3 oxidizer and charcoal as a fuel. If the oxidizer is removed from the "stars", is it reasonable, upon detonation, to assume that the now vapourized "star" will combust only with the detonation of the gunpowder explosive charge without the need for an oxidizer in the "star" composition?

See this page for a diagram and composition of materials: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-Fireworks/

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    $\begingroup$ without reading details Unless you know VERY well what you are doing, messing with pyrotechnic composition is somewhere between bad and spectacularly bad ideas. At best it would not work. At worst you will suffer irreversible damage. $\endgroup$
    – permeakra
    Jun 1, 2017 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ Changing already established procedures is one of the ways that science works. I did not ask about the safety of the modification as it is obvious that caution should be used. I asked why it would or would not work. Answer that. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2017 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ If you don't add an oxidizer, the oxidizer is oxygen, and unless it's well-mixed, the explosion will generally not be as rapid. Also, I second permeakra's concerns about messing with fireworks. I have more than a decade of laboratory experience, and toying with this raises huge red flags. $\endgroup$
    – Zhe
    Jun 1, 2017 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ From what I have read, the oxidizer in the stars only serves to burn the fuel (and create colour for the firework) once the explosive charge has been detonated. I don't think that the removal of the oxidizer from the stars will impact the explosion caused by the gunpowder significantly. I have the highest respect for safety, and I have been working with pyrotechnics for almost 3 years under the supervision of professionals. I am aware of the hazards of carelessly working with pyrotechnics. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2017 at 18:54

2 Answers 2


When the interior gunpowder charge explodes, it blows the stars in all directions and ignites them. They then burn very rapidly (perhaps explosively) giving the star effect exactly because the stars are a mixture of fuel and oxidizer. If the stars were all fuel (carbon), they would be essentially charcoal briquettes. In that case the center would explode, throwing (possibly) burning charcoal chunks in all directions. This could be a truly novel approach to barbecue...


First of all. Learn the difference, burn, explode and detonate. Gunpowder can never detonate but explode. In response to your question, I would like to say that removing the oxidizer will not burn or not be included as a fuel in principle if there is no surplus of oxygen in the explosion itself. Since the stars will not be surrounded by oxygen everywhere, a large part of them will be surplus material. Think of the "fire triangle" Four need: oxygen, fuel and heat. Do you remove any of these, no fire will burn no matter what size.

I am a retired firefighter, and for many years as a military explosive expert, Own Company for Civil Rock Blasters. Sadly no chemistry engineer.


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