Introduction: Flash Powder

Picture of Flash Powder
This is a reasonably safe, easy to make, high powered flash powder, suitable for use in electrically triggered pyrotechnics effects.

It stays reasonably stable under various moisture conditions.

For instructions on making squibs (small flat pack explosives), see my other instructable.

*** WARNINGS:***

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials
You will need:

  • aluminum powder
  • potassium perchlorate powder
  • a metal cylinder for rolling out powder
  • an anti-static bag for mixing
  • a precise scale, capable of measuring single-gram quantities

Step 2: Prepare the Work Area

Make sure your work table is flat, clean, and dry.

Make sure there is NO possibility of static shocks: Do not wear rubber shoes on synthetic carpets in cool, dry air, etc...

Lay out your materials neatly, and DESIGNATE AN AREA FOR EACH CHEMICAL. They become an explosive when mixed together, so you don't want them mixing unless you mean to.

Step 3: Measure and Mill Perchlorate

Picture of Measure and Mill Perchlorate

Decide on your batch size. I suggest NOT mixing more than 12 grams at a time.

Weigh out perchlorate in the amount of 2/3 of your batch size. For example: A 12 gram batch is 8 grams perchlorate, 4 grams aluminum powder.

Place the pile of perchlorate on a small piece of paper, in its spot on the work surface, and GENTLY use the metal roller to mill it into a very fine powder.

The finer the powder is, the more reliable your triggering will be.

If it is very clumpy, you may wish to scoop it up into a pile again, and re-mill it several times.

When you are done, use the piece of paper to pour your powder into the mixing bag.

Step 4: Measure Aluminum Powder

Picture of Measure Aluminum Powder

"Fluff" your aluminum powder by agitating it with a spoon or similar instrument. This serves the same purpose of the milling did with the perchlorate: The powder will not be clumped together, and it will mix better, making a more reliable explosive.

Again, using your scale, measure 1/3 of your batch size in aluminum powder.

Carefully pour the aluminum powder into the mixing bag with the perchlorate.

Step 5: Final Mix

Picture of Final Mix

once you have both materials in the bag, gently rock the bag back and forth about ten times, until the two powders are thoroughly mixed.

Congratulations! You have made flash powder. Be careful with it.

Store in a clean, dry place, in a sealed container, away from children and pets. Store away from sources of ignition, and from other chemicals.

To incorporate your flash powder into flat pack explosives, see my other instructable: flat-pack explosive (squib).


BlueFusion (author)2007-06-30

Gaa! Please anyone, never use aluminium powder without an appropriate particulate respirator. If you get even minute traces of aluminium powder in your lungs, it can (& probably will, slowly) KILL YOU! This is almost as bad as asbestos poisoning! Any container containing aluminium powder should never be opened unless everyone present has a mask / filter. Even the action of opening the container will cause some powder to become airborne. Apart from that, great. You do need to be aware that this is NOT SAFE and you shouldn't do it, but if you want to, go for it. Nothing remotely involving pyrotechnics is totally safe. However, I've been doing it for a couple of years and I'm still intact!

caplug (author)BlueFusion2016-10-23

You are 100% correct. I was a machinist for 32 years.I started as a hand finisher.The quickest way to get fired was to not wear a respirator. And any metal dust is hazardous.Some more than others. Wear a respirator at least.

Ironious (author)BlueFusion2007-12-22

yer full of ballonie dude. Aluminum is non toxic read the MSDS.

BlueFusion (author)Ironious2007-12-23

'ballonie'? baloney, or more correctly (origin) bologna.
anyway, where teh f*k did you get the impression its not toxic. How about you read the MSDS. It tells you it IS VERY MUCH toxic and even more dangerous as powder.

and more:

some highlights:
Health Rating: 2 - Moderate (Life)
Contact Rating: 2 - Moderate
Storage Color Code: Red Stripe (Store Separately)

Potential Health Effects
Eye: May cause eye irritation.
Skin: May cause skin irritation. Low hazard for usual industrial handling. No sensitizing effects known.
Ingestion: May cause gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Inhalation: May cause respiratory tract irritation. May cause respiratory difficulty and coughing.
Chronic: Aluminum may be implicated in Alzheimer's disease. Inhalation of aluminum containing dusts may cause pulmonary disease.

Realise that in a MSDS, 'may' means is, they are covering their own asses by not using 'always' words.

Symptoms of aluminium powder inhalation are somewhat similar to asbestos. Do some research, please, for your own lungs and heart's sake. If you must, go breathe it all day, see who dies first. I'm trying to help people here.

Ironious (author)BlueFusion2007-12-23

Causes irritation to the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath.
Not considered toxic although aluminum chloride may form slowly in the digestive tract with nausea, vomiting, other gastrointestinal effects in extreme cases.
Skin Contact:
May cause irritation with redness and pain.
Eye Contact:
Causes irritation, redness, and pain.
At most its an irritant.
It says nothing about death or disease. it says it may be implicated in Alzheimer's. "May" means that it is unknown but suspected or it could or could not. Ive read other MSDS's for other chemicals that say they can cause disease. And in order to get lung disease you have to be chronically exposed to it. Thats chronic, as in you work around the stuff 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week for months or years on end. But chronic inhalation of any kind of dust is going to ruin your lungs over time. I mean how long does it take to make a batch of flash powder? And read the sheet again. It says nothing about aluminum being toxic. There are no harmful side effects from ingesting it.
Trying to help people and over worrying people are two different things. You want to help folks not scare then needlessly. Chemistry should be fascinating not scary. There's always a chance of risk when working with chemicals but with proper safety precautions those risks can be negated. Working with aluminum powder in this setting is just not much of a risk.

BlueFusion (author)Ironious2008-01-02

Go ask any reputable and nonbiased chemical expert. (one who doesn't sell the stuff). It's one of the most hazardous substances around, even though it seems benign. I don't want to argue; it's your funeral. (I'll put "I told you so" in the eulogy.) Please don't go killing anyone else too, though, with these words, then it's murder, not just suicide.

en2oh (author)BlueFusion2016-08-22

for the record, I'm a chemist and a physician. No particulate is especially good to inhale HOWEVER, hard rock miners used to get aluminum inhalation therapy to treat silicosis. Aluminum dust is a pulmonary irritant. While I've heard of asbestosis and silicosis, we didn't get much training on the dangers of "aluminosis". ?

There is a lot that is unknown in the world of occupational health and welfare. That being said, there is no capris on between inhaling asbestos and inhaling aluminum powder. Where did you ever get such an idea?

tedjack (author)BlueFusion2016-05-11

You are fulla Ballonie! The MSDS clearly states that it only causes
respiratory irritation. Nothing about about masks and agonizing death.
You need to re-educate yourself. Read the MSDS.

andy60 (author)BlueFusion2007-08-02

shit! i was makng thermite the other day, cutting up alluminum to get the powder... i feel fine and it's been three days?

BlueFusion (author)andy602007-08-02

cutting it up probably won't get anything like the necessary particle size. It works better for thermite if its finer too; try ripping open an etch-a-sketch.

schimmi (author)BlueFusion2008-01-04

but then answer me this, why would they put poisonous compounds into a kid's toy that could easily break?

BlueFusion (author)schimmi2008-01-05

They're not actually that easy to get into. :P I have also heard some new info that says its actually iron filings, not aluminium powder. So that may be why :P

andy60 (author)BlueFusion2007-08-03

woo thats a relief lol, al get some masks and try opening my etch-a-sketch! thanks

qualia (author)BlueFusion2007-11-05

woah ive been exposed to very very fine mesh Al dust.. i never bothered with breathing apparatus.. that was when i was making thermite.. amongst other more dangerous stuff. hmmmn and that was erm a year ago and i probabl sucked in alot coz it was visibly floating around in the air and i had my face right up next to the stuff i was making coz i was making complex lil containers for it =] gah i dont really care i have probably got alot more poisons in my body than alot of dead people. anywho wouldnt it oxidise once exposed to the environment inside a lung fairly quickly and become aluminium oxide? ah wait.. is that the bit where it gets unhealthy? oh well.. i've also ingested alot of ricin.. and other high toxins. but im still walking muahahaha i must be invincible!!!!!!! rarrr fear me!!!

BlueFusion (author)qualia2007-11-08

yeah, i'd say you have probably shortened your lifespan by about 30 years... seriously go see a doctor dude.

qualia (author)BlueFusion2007-11-08

no its ok.. i believe i have also discovered the secret to immortal life as well.. and apparently ricin loses its effectiveness through exposure to stuff like air and water and it disintegrates into harmless stuff. :D and hey.. i plan to live to be 10000 so dont diss me for it. if it works i'll post an instructable.. :D

DavidT369 (author)2016-06-16

Potential Acute Health Effects:

Slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant). Non-irritating to the eyes. Non-hazardous in case of ingestion.

Another individual talking out his rectal cavity, must be a liberal.

fancypants23 (author)2014-09-07

ive heard that star molecule aluminum powder is supposed to be the best aluminum to use, what type do u use?

The Ownist (author)2007-11-13

where can i get potassium perchlorate

schimmi (author)The Ownist2008-01-04

also know as salt petre, go find it at your local walgreens or whatever drug store you have nearby

RichieL1 (author)schimmi2014-08-03

Salt Peter or Salt Petre in the USA is potassium nitrate although in some parts of the world like Chile and Peru it refers to sodium nitrate.

yallrfags (author)schimmi2008-01-05

Salt petre is potassium nitrate not potassium perchlorate. Also i haven't been able to find salt petre anymore lately so i had to order some online.

its just stump remover . :0

schimmi (author)yallrfags2008-01-05

oh, i usually put: "i think" before everything i put on any comments that have to do with explosives/ fyrework things thanks i guess.

Meispantyshot (author)schimmi2010-04-24

Potassium perchlorate and potassium nitrate are not the same chemical.

Pryoman (author)The Ownist2008-01-17

you can buy this product at the following website.

Thinkman (author)2006-08-28
When Black Powder isn't granulated, and is in a super fine powder state (similar to that of Talcum Powder) it is called "Meal Powder".

The mixing process for Black Powder is just as important as the formula. Black Powder MUST be made in a Ball Mill to work properly.
A Ball Mill is a rotating drum with dozens of lead balls inside. The 3 chemicals are loaded into the Ball Mill, along with the lead balls, sealed shut and allowed to rotate for anywhere between 1 hour and 24 hours. As the Ball Mill rotates, the lead balls will crush the chemicals together, forcing some of the Potassium Nitrate into the pores of the Charcoal and Sulfur. At the same time, the entire mass will be reduced to a super fine powder. The longer the Ball Mill runs, the stronger the Black Powder will be. A general rule of thumb for all pyrotechnic mixtures is " the finer the powder is, the faster it will burn ".
ONLY lead balls can be used in a Ball Mill as they are completely non-sparking. ONLY Black Powder can be mixed in a Ball Mill. Other pyrotechnic mixtures such as Flash Powder, etc. CAN NOT, as they are too sensitive and will explode. Individual chemicals however, can also be Ball Milled into a fine powder, but the mill must be cleaned before this is done.

Flash Powder is a high explosive, a shattering explosive. It converts to a gas so fast, that objects near it, and containers that hold it cannot move out of they way (or vent) fast enough to release this gas, so they are destroyed into fragments.
Black Powder is a low explosive, a heaving explosive. It converts to gas much more slowly than Flash Powder, and generally pushes things as opposed to fragmenting them. If Black Powder is used in a small Salute like an M-80, it will just make a loud "pop", and push out the end plugs.
Flash Powder in an M-80 will make a loud explosion and fragment the tube into small pieces. Flash Powder burns so much faster than Black Powder that in larger Salutes, it doesn't even matter if you've got end plugs on the tube at all, it will still detonate and fragment the Salute, even with 2 open ends.

The following is the standard formula for Black Powder:

Potassium Nitrate
150 grams
Charcoal Powder
30 grams
20 grams

  • This is a reasonably safe, easy to make, high powered flash powder, suitable for use in electrically triggered pyrotechnics effects.

**** WARNINGS:***

Those two things should never be on the same page as each other! This guy must have been on crack the day he created this page.
roscoluu (author)Thinkman2012-04-05

As an ademdum: Low explosives, such as gunpowder, produce a shockwave less than the speed of sound. High explosives, such as flash, produce a shockwave greater than the speed of sound.

An example of what you are dealing with:
If you substituted flash for the gun powder in, say, a 44 magnum cartrige, fired in it a quality, well made, firearm, the bullet wouldn't exit the barrel, the firearm would explode in your hand.
Although I feel the publishing of this is somewhat irresponsible; it's not like it can't be found elsewhere, and at least this offers a forum for responsible discussion, and WARNINGS. And yes, if properly made, and there are formulas using as many as 7 ingediants, (I have published and copywrited several), 500grams can indeed lift your house from it's foundation, but would probably just blow the windows and walls out.

RichieL1 (author)roscoluu2014-08-03

Flash powders do not truly detonate nor do they produce a supersonic shockwave. They are not high explosives under the common industry definition. They deflagrate at a high but still subsonic speed. Even self confining deflagration is not the same as detonation.

Pyroman (author)2006-08-23

wow...u dudes are so freakishly paranoid. look at all the stuff that guy is wearing. i've heard that this formula is actually pretty hard to set off without heat (relative to other flash powders). They said that they tried setting it off by zapping it with several thousand volts, and it didn't go off. so evidently a little static wont kill u. and i myself have tried hitting it with a hammer and it didn't go off. so shock isn't a factor for this either.

kaboom05 (author)Pyroman2008-08-28

flash powder can be set off with friction (heat) or at the "drop of a hat" its very unstable the guy in a welder suit is pretty sencible doing so (author)kaboom052009-06-22

I know that Chlorate flash powder isn't that sensitive, so i very much doubt perchlorate flash powder is

RichieL1 (author)mr.space2014-08-03

KClO3 mixtures are, all other things being equal, more sensitive than KClO4 mixtures. Half of you posting here have no idea what you are talking about in an area where ignorance kills.

tbird45039 (author)mr.space2009-07-10

potassium chlorate is very unstable compared to perchlorate, and perchlorate isn't all that stable either

phredex (author)Pyroman2008-04-02

Also, regardless of what you have heard, I personally know of an incident where it was set off by being spilled on the ground and rubbed with a foot. Months in the hospital that time.

Suttonboy (author)phredex2009-07-25

no way its impossible...if you "spilled" sum. I use this mixture kclo4/Al very often as i am in the pyrotechnic industry, first of all it is not sensitive to friction, and if u spent months in the hospital u were either bare foot bcuz if u had shoes on it would have taken 2-3 grams "spilled" then scooped in a pile and not "rubbed" but ground with ur foot into pavement, if you stupid enough to do that you have no respect for pyrotechnics period and shouldnt be anywere near when they are used.

RichieL1 (author)Suttonboy2014-08-03

All KClO4/AL flash compositions are friction sensitive to various degrees. If you don't know that, you need to stop working with them asap.

ColbyCirca89 (author)phredex2008-09-16

How much spilled? You can stand on a few of the "little dynamite" and not hardly feel a thing when they go off. Although this is done wearing shoes, not barefoot.

phredex (author)Pyroman2008-04-02

As a licensed user of fireworks, and knowing most of the folks involved in the Pyrotechnics Industry, I implore you to not make Flash Powder, using Nitrate, Perchlorate or Chlorate. I know of numerous accidents that have killed people, quickly, even thogh the same people have been "doing it for years". This stuff is dangerous, period, 500 grams WILL remove your house from it's foundation, and if you live, allow you to spend some quality time with your new wife "Bubba" in Club Fed.

0xCyrusx0 (author)phredex2008-08-30

What are you talking about? 500 grams is not nearly enough to "Remove your house from it's foundation". I have a feeling you don't know much about what you are talking about.

phredex (author)0xCyrusx02008-08-31

You must not be mixing it properly.

RichieL1 (author)phredex2014-08-03

500g of FFFF, FFFG or even courser grades of black powder will "remove a house from it's foundation" if:

1. The charge is properly placed in proximity to where the house joins the foundation.

2. The charge is properly confined.

franklinonline (author)phredex2009-06-11

why dont you demenstrate removing a house from the foundation :)

ColbyCirca89 (author)phredex2008-09-16

Wait, "licensed user"? Do you mean licensed maker? If you are a licensed user, you must live in a city somewhere, where pyrotechnics are severely limited. Cities are very paranoid about fireworks and the like.

phredex (author)ColbyCirca892008-09-16

Type 54 BATF&E; Federal License.

Kataze (author)Pyroman2007-10-16

I heard that too. But the guys I heard it from also said that it's better safe than having third-degree burns.

themasterpyro (author)Pyroman2007-08-31

im with ya if you get hurt hey not me its YOUR FAULT NOT MINEbesides if u get hurt its more fun:]

John Smith (author)Pyroman2007-07-27

I've hit flash with a hammer...and it went off at about the 4th try (I was wearing goggles and gloves, too. ), although I could only do it once.

Its not shock its friction that can set it off and thats with prechlorate. Chlorate is much more reactive. One time a guy got a half foot cater in his yard from 40mgs.

RichieL1 (author)2014-08-03

First of all admitting to the manufacture of a "pipe bomb" on a public forum is idiotic. A "pipe bomb" is not necessary to harness the explosive power of most flash since it doesn't need that degree of confinement. The only reason to make a "pipe bomb" with flash is to use it as a weapon. Second 500g of flash will not displace enough earth to create anywhere near a 7 foot hole. 500g of TNT which is considerably more efficient at displacing earth than flash wont do that either.

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