You may not know: Gunpowder was born while making the elixir of life

Everyone loves fireworks – the lights, the colors and, of course, the loud bangs. But the history of fireworks is more than just celebration. Long before dramatic fireworks were displayed, alchemists in China invented the key ingredient that propels these dazzling beams into the sky. That invention is what we call gunpowder.

The story begins in ancient China in the mid-nineteenth century where early Chinese alchemists were trying to create a potion of immortality. But accidentally created a flammable powder that burned down many of their homes. In the early days, the Chinese did not find a way to make this powder explode, it was simply very flammable so their army used it to make flaming arrows and even flamethrowers.

You may not know: Gunpowder was born while making the elixir of life
Instead of immortality, Chinese alchemists found something that left a mark on all civilizations.

But when they found the right proportions of ingredients to create an explosion, they began to use them more, creating fireworks for rituals and dynamite to fend off the Mongol invaders.

And most likely the Mongols spread this invention of gunpowder around the world. After their incursions into China they learned to produce their own gun powder and carried it with them to their conquests in Persia and India. William of Rubruck, a European ambassador to Mongolia, may have been responsible for bringing gunpowder back to Europe around 1254.

Since then, military engineers and inventors have created all kinds of destructive weapons. From bombs to guns and cannons, gunpowder has left its mark around the world in a rather gruesome way, in contrast to the beautiful shapes it has left in the sky. So, how did that black powder explode into fireworks in the sky?​

You may have seen cowboy movies or cartoons where the gunpowder line is ignited and leads to a large barrel, once the fire reaches the barrel, the barrel explodes. But why only when the barrel explodes? The reason is that the burning of the powder releases energy and gases, which are easily transferred into the surrounding air when the powder strip is ignited. But when gunpowder is contained in a barrel, energy and gas cannot escape easily and accumulate until BOOMMM!

Similarly, fireworks canisters are designed with only a single hole, in order to generate energy for the explosion. This trick causes the gunpowder to explode and the energy released through an easy exit that fires the fireworks into the sky. The flame then goes into the head of the fireworks and BOOMMM!!!

Instead of immortality, Chinese alchemists have found something that has left its mark on all civilizations, causing many tragic moments in human history but still bringing us joy. Fresh and hopeful as you look up at the night sky during colorful festivals.