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TITLE Lighting up the Skies: The Chemistry of Fireworks

LEVEL I - Introductory Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION This Unit will provide the basic chemistry required to understand the chemistry of pyrotechnic mixtures, namely, states of matter, the mole concept, thermodynamics and energetics, rates of reaction, gas laws, acids and bases, redox reactions and light emission.

It will provide a general introduction to high-energy mixtures, which will include a detailed explanation of the role of the various components that make up high-energy mixtures.

It will also offer an overview of pyrotechnic principles, which will include the requirements needed to prepare well-balanced pyrotechnic compositions and will review dangerous/unstable pyrotechnic compositions. Ignition and propagation in pyrotechnic mixtures will also be discussed.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:

• Understand basic chemical principles;
• Understand the chemistry involved in high-energy mixtures typically used in pyrotechnics. The student will be able to distinguish the various components of pyrotechnic mixtures and how these interact together to produce high-energy mixtures;
• Understand the principles required to achieve burning;
• Understand how different chemicals alter the ignition and propagation of pyrotechnic mixtures;
• Understand what constitutes a well-balanced pyrotechnic mixture and what renders them unsafe.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:

• Write and balance chemical equations;
• Work out calculation including redox calculations;
• Apply the gas laws and the ideal gas equation;
• Build a stoichiometrically balanced high-energy composition;
• Identify dangerous compositions.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Conkling, S. E. (1985) Chemistry of Pyrotechnics: Basic Principles and Theory; Marcel Dekker Inc: New York, NY.
- Russell, M. S. (2000) The Chemistry of Fireworks; Royal Society of Chemistry: Cambridge.
- Lancaster, R. (1998) Fireworks: Principles and Practices (3rd ed); with contributions from Butler, R.E.A; Lancaster, J.M; Shimizu, T; Smith, T. A. K; Chemical Publishing Co. Inc: New York, NY.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 40%
Classwork Yes 60%

LECTURER/S Renato Camilleri
Alfred J. Vella

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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