August in Edinburgh: festivals, tourists, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and of course fireworks. How many of you have ever stopped to consider the environmental impact of these nocturnal displays?
Researchers at the Pyrotechnics Technology and Prototyping division of the US Army have developed new fireworks technology that is both better for the environment and less harmful to its users. At a time when people are becoming ever more conscious of the ‘carbon footprint’ of their everyday lives, it is not surprising to learn that considerable research has already been carried out to develop more environmentally friendly fireworks. Until now green coloured fireworks or flares, such as the handheld signal device used by the US Army, were created using barium-containing compounds.
It has recently been found that barium ores, as a raw material, may contain radioactive radium; barium compounds already pose several health hazards to people who work with them. Barium-free pyrotechnic alternatives have so far, not been very cost effective, and only burned brightly for a short length of time. Boron has previously been studied as an alternative to barium. It produces very bright lights but burns too fast to be useful for its intended purpose.
The group set up a series of experiments where different ratios of boron and boron carbide were tested in comparison to the handheld signalling device used by the army. Boron carbide was chosen due to its potential ability to slow down boron’s fast burn rate. The result was that a combination of boron and boron carbide not only improved the burn time compared to the barium-containing formula used in the traditional hand-held army signalling device, but also proved to have larger luminous intensities. This discovery can therefore be used both by the army and civilians to produce more affordable, environmentally friendly, and less harmful pyrotechnics.
Posted on Tuesday, 1st May, 2012