Introduction: Flash Powder

Picture of Flash Powder
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Flash powder is the universal composition for almost all pyrotechnic reports. Bottle rockets, thunderbombs, m-80's, shells, everything. If it is not enclosed in a container then a bright flash along with a lot of smoke will be produced as shown in the picture. If it is enclosed in a container, even the smallest amounts will produce a loud report and a violent explosion.
If you are going to use this to make fireworks please note that fireworks must be legal in your state, you might need some sort of license, and that you can use no more then 50 milligrams per firecracker ANYWHERE no exceptions. Any firework that contains more then 50 milligrams is illegal in every state.
Flash powder was originally used for producing light for cameras about 100 years ago. You have probably seen something to this extent where a photographer holds a wooden handle with a flat platform on top, says look at the birdy, and poof he ignites the flash powder.
There are many different formulas for flash powder, I will explain the simplest one with the easiest chemicals to get your hands on.


Step 1: Chemicals

Picture of Chemicals

The simplest formula for flash powder has only 2 components.

400-600 mesh aluminum powder. The mesh refers to the size of the particles in the powder, it may also be referred to by its actual particle size in microns. For micron size the smaller the number the smaller the particle, for mesh size the higher the number the smaller the particle. A general rule of thumb - the smaller the particle the better. Can be bought on e-bay.

Potassium perchlorate - it is the oxidizer in the reaction. It is getting harder and harder to come by, the CPSC is trying to outlaw many different chemicals, and potassium perchlorate is high on their priority list. As of this writing it can still be bought on unitednuclear.com.

Step 2: Mix

Picture of Mix

Always mix chemicals by their weight. The ratio for the flash powder formula is:

Aluminum powder 30%
Potassium perchlorate 70%

Before you start measuring out the chemicals, it is good practice to neutralize your environment by spraying some anti-static spray around where you will be working. It can be made easily by mixing 1 part fabric softener to 9 parts water and putting it in a spray bottle.

Using the ratio, measure out how much aluminum powder you will use and put it in a plastic ziplock bag (spray the bag with anti-static also) Then measure out how much potassium perchlorate you will use and put it in the bag. Seal the bag and gently shake it around until the chemicals are evenly mixed.

Once the flash powder is mixed do not seal it in any form of container, this will lessen the risk of an accidental explosion.
Do not store the flash powder only make what you are going to use.

Step 3: Use

Picture of Use

Place a small amount of flash powder on the ground outside. Make sure the area is clear of any thing that can catch on fire, or any loose objects.
Insert a 10 in. long fuse into the pile. (Instructions for fuse here https://www.instructables.com/id/E9ZBOE35P9EPA8KZXX/ )
Light and stand back. When the fuse ignites the flash powder a bright flash and pfft sound will be given off.
A large cloud of smoke will also be produced.

I know its hypocritical for me to say this but: Please be satisfied with that and do not make fireworks.

I have the experience to do these things safely, no matter how dangerous I make it seem in videos or photos. I know exact burning rates of all the fuse I use, proper amount's of powder to use, and proper containers to use, etc. So please don't try to make fireworks unless you know what you are doing.

Comments

SherpaDoug (author)2013-01-16

Is this the sort of flash powder that would have been used by 1900's era photographers? I am looking for max flash with minimal bang, smoke, etc.

bigcheeze (author)2007-12-25

I live in Canada and united nuclear/skylighter.com don't deliver there and I can't find stump remover PLEASE HELP MEEEEEEE!!!!

comander01 (author)bigcheeze2008-11-02

I NEED HELP TOO! Live in BC, and can't find any suppliers.

hopekiller30 (author)comander012012-07-02

look at what i said to bigcheeze

AMac42 (author)comander012009-09-27

you can get most of what you need at Buckerfields, stump remover is salt-peter and for stuff like Al-powder we have Compounding Pharmacy. just google fertilizer stores and compounding pharmacist in you aria.

hopekiller30 (author)bigcheeze2012-07-02

late reaction but to make aluminum powder u just blend up tin foil until it is extremly fine and then to make potassium perchlorate pretty much in short mix matches with boiling water put through coffee filter mix with some boiled down hydrogen peroxide and small amount of ammonia based cleaner........ (that was the short version) look it up on youtube it is pretty easy

Loveofchaos (author)bigcheeze2007-12-28

Saltpetre in a healthfood store or pharmacy? thats where I got mine... also i think ebay sells it.

bigcheeze (author)Loveofchaos2008-01-18

well..I can't find it so there! and saltpeter is my second choice.

monkeybiker24 (author)bigcheeze2008-01-24

is Saltpeter solid Potassium perchlorate or do you have to remove other stuff from it?

bigcheeze (author)monkeybiker242008-01-25

no potassium perchlorate is totally different from saltpeter(potassium nitrate),there both oxidizers only differences are the chemical makeup and saltpeter leaves a bit of residue (molten salt)but solidifies in seconds

monkeybiker24 (author)bigcheeze2008-01-25

but it will work just as well as the Potassium perchlorate.

pyrodawg (author)monkeybiker242008-02-14

no where near the same thing salt petre to potassium perchlorate is a fire cracker to a stick of dynomite.perchlorate is a much much much stronger oxidizer

bigcheeze (author)pyrodawg2008-11-04

correct.

pyrodawg (author)bigcheeze2008-02-14

go to lowes or home depot or walmart and buy spectricide brand stump remover over 97% kno3 grants stump remover works well 2

firebug89 (author)pyrodawg2008-10-14

but spectricide stump remover is liquid. does that matter?

MisterHankie (author)Loveofchaos2008-10-14

what pharmacy did you you find it at?

Loveofchaos (author)MisterHankie2008-10-15

crystal in Ca

dciocoiu (author)bigcheeze2008-11-02

were in Canada do you live?

bigcheeze (author)dciocoiu2008-11-04

edmonton,alberta.why?

Don,t try this at home (author)2012-05-27

I have been having trouble finding Potassium perchlorate but i have loads of KNO3 for making smoke bombs. would it still work well if i replaced the Potassium perchlorate with KNO3??

dynamite boy (author)2007-12-09

what i use for my flash powder is i go to a hobby store and buy about 10 of the biggest model rocket engines they have and then i put about 3 at a time into a trash bag [if you do this make sure there the black industrial bags they usually say "CONTRACTOR BAGS" buy at home depot or menards ] and take a hammer and hit them as hard as i can and do this to all of the engines and then i take all of the powder and put it into a plastic bag and then wrap alot of duct tape around it and put some fuse [about one foot of it because these things r HUGE] and then i lite it and run like hell.

Dreikatzen (author)dynamite boy2012-04-04

D-B,
Those engines are basically black powder. How you have managed not to blow yourself up is beyond me. If you want that kind of thing, get the real ingredients: Salt-peter (canning salt), sulfur and charcoal. Grind them carefully and seperately into a fine powder. Use some screen mesh to even out/filter the particles. DO NOT hit them to grind them up. A mortar and pestil or carefully grinding on the mesh. The finer the powder the better the result. Experiment with the proportions. . .they can be found on the net. WARNING: BLACK POWDER IS CONSIDERED AN EXPLOSIVE. IT IS VOLITILE, UNPREDICTABLE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. Like I said. . .why you haven't blown yourself up yet is a mystery to me. . .be careful and have. . . .fun.

finniano (author)dynamite boy2011-02-15

im pretty sure if a rocket engine was made out of flash powder it would just explode if you tried to ignite it.

finniano (author)dynamite boy2011-02-15

thats black powder, right? if you using estes engines its black powder, or aerotech is composite. If its composite then alot of it is ammonium percholate.

uh.. rocket engines are not flash powder..

skelly7447 (author)dynamite boy2010-07-09

don't crush the nozzle.

Aron313 (author)2012-03-09

How do you get it to bee water proof?

steelswordman (author)2011-07-23

hey are these ingrediants cheap? and easy to get?

yes

awsome thanks

thing 2 (author)2011-05-02

I thought this was the kind that you throw on the ground...... :(
I want to make some that the movie ninjas use...

ostomesto (author)thing 22011-05-13

well in that case go on youtube and search Kipkay, you may have heard of him, one of his recent videos was slammin ninja smokebombs. throw them at the ground and the explode in smoke and light. so search "slamming ninja smoke bombs" on youtube

thing 2 (author)ostomesto2011-05-13

Thanks!

paver2009 (author)2010-08-22

can any one tell me how to make flash powder stronger

bremac (author)paver20092010-08-26

contain it in a stronger vessel. a stronger cardboard vessel, never put flash in metal unless you don't appreciate having your testicles. the strongest paper tube i've ever found is dollar store shrink wrap rolls. The flash has to overcome the back pressure produced by the vessel which gives higher pressure upon rupture. you need nothing more powerful than perchlorate flash powder. don'[t screw with nitrate or permanganate flashes, they'll kill you, a really good flash powder with high yeild is cooked golden powder. ammonium nitrate and magnesium might be an acception to the danger rule, at least not as dangerous but i would stay away. to determine how much power you'll get you need to know how to write out a balanced chemical reaction equation, from that you can determine the number of moles of gas that are produced and the temperature of that gas. YOu want the reactants that will produce the most gas in the most exothermic reaction. Its been a while but i think magnesium and potassium nitrate, or permanganate gives the highest yeild, someone please correct me if you are more current with your calculations, its been years for me.

paver2009 (author)bremac2011-04-25

if you put it in a stronger vessel it isnt louder it has a snap sound to it i was looking for a boom sound im looking for the big boom sound like the big fire works you watch and here some fire works you here are loud even 20 grams of pp flash isnt that loud i tryed amon p and that isnt even that loud how do thay get that big boom in fire works

bremac (author)paver20092011-04-27

If you are talking about the burst charge that is accomplished by coating rice hulls with black powder and putting it in the middle of the shell. That creates a very deep boom. Anything other than weak binary heaving charges would just blow the shell contents to hell and they would be ineffective as fireworks. Reports and salutes are generally perchlorate and aluminum flash and don't require a burst charge, it just depends what kind of fireworks you are talking about.

zionic (author)paver20092011-03-04

just put more powder in to what ever your making allways work for me :L

paver2009 (author)zionic2011-04-25

10 grams and 20 grams sound the same if you go to the fire works the boom in them is loud and you can feel it how is that flash that strong

nonickname (author)2010-08-07

Are you sure your Al powder is 2 micron? You state 400 mesh, which is ~38 micron. If that's 2 micron, it will surely make extremely hot flash.

finniano (author)nonickname2011-02-15

is there a formula for conversions between mesh values and micron size of the particle?

Don,t try this at home (author)2010-06-23

can i use german dark aluminum powder???

chemical_art (author)2010-06-23

To reiterate what every sane person has said: Safety, safety, safety. Seriously, you can never really be safe with this stuff, but with the right steps the risk can be mitigated. What kept me safe through my brief time with this stuff is four things.

1. Size. Always mix very small batches right before use especially if you are new to the stuff. There is a very, very fine line between too little and too much and it is much smaller than what an inexperienced person would think. If you want a louder bang: a thick paper cylinder with ends open is better than more powder. If you want more illumination, use a different powder.

2. Handling. Treat this stuff as if it could ignite from the smallest bump, heat, or (electric) shock. Always keep the mixture at full arms length. While the mixture discovered is relatively stable (as far as flash goes) you should still treat it with the utmost respect. Be slow and methodical with it; have a plan with the stuff from preparation to ignition before mixing it to begin with.

3. Gear. In the absolute worse case the stuff may ignite due to some unforeseen circumstance. You may want to wear protective gear to mitigate damage. Some may think more gear makes you more likely to screw up or will not protect you from damage. But I feel that the right gear and following rule 1. and 2. will let you certainly live and maybe keep your hands and fingers. The goal is to protect your hands from heat, your eyes from flash, and your whole body from shrapnel. I used two separate gloves together for my hands; heat protective and leather gloves to absorb heat and kinetic energy. For my body I used a *thick* jumpsuit. Head was paintball mask and my sunglasses were tinted and break resistant. My example is certainly extreme, but no matter what amount of gear you use you want to be fully competent in dexterity before handling flash powder.

4. Methodology: You want to know everything you can about flash powder before you mess with it. You want to know how to make it, handle it, ignite it. Read from multiple sources. Just as importantly you need the right mindset: You need to plan what you are going to do with it during each step. This sounds a lot like the steps above but it is important enough to be worth repeating.

If the above helps you all in your hobbying. Feel free to copy it if you want to post it elsewhere, I just want to make a dangerous but rewarding hobby just a little safer.

iav82 (author)chemical_art2010-11-15

You say use a thicker paper cylinder with open ends. What should you use for plugging the cylinder ends or the lowder salute??

mcaliber.50 (author)iav822011-02-06

on most small fireworks, they use clay. not the kind that doesn't dry out, the real stuff.

iav82 (author)mcaliber.502011-02-06

benzonite? I used plastic plugs and glue them with carpenter's glue. works pretty good so far.

nutsandbolts_64 (author)2011-01-22

I just remembered, New Year, 2010, we were setting off fireworks and firing rockets. One of the rockets were evidently defective and flew off into my face and literally exploded in my face. Why am I not blind? Because I had protective headgear on that's why.

that one guy (author)2007-08-13

Are you a professional pyrotechnician or just an explosive expert? you sure know a lot about anything dangerous/awesome.

Nikodemos (author)that one guy2007-08-13

"That one guy" As I mentioned before in regards to my specialty, I am a Ph.D. Synthetic Organic Chemist. As such I am what would be legally refered to as an "expert". Specifically in my research I have gained extensive experience handling, working with and synthesizing a variety (clearly not all) of high energy (i.e. explosive) compounds. So in regards to the specific high energy compounds that I've worked with yes I am an expert. This does not mean that I know everything there is to know. With high energy materials you can be as safe as possible and explosions still can and do occur. You could routinely work with with a compound for several years and never have a problem. You become comfortable and more lax with it and that my friend is exactly when this apparently stable compound rears its ugly head and bites you in the a$$ (explosion). Believe me its true I have several friends and colleagues who have had serious explosions in lab, amazingly the injuries were not disfiguring although the explosions totally had the potential to kill. Oxidizers such as perchlorates or chlorates are extremely serious. Flash powder is a mixture of fuel and oxidizer like gun powder although gun powder is a low explosive. Flash powder is a high explosive, meaning it doesnt just burn fast it detonates even when not confined. A pile of flash powder on the ground (above a certain weight) will detonate. Add to this questionable stability and the bottom line is that its extremely dangerous. Hopefully some will take my advice and advoid this but what ever you do be careful! Cimo7: I really dont care if you believe me or not! The foolish will never give up their embrace of ignorance!

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