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The Big Bang and Other Forays in Pyrotechnics*

Scientific Discipline — Chemistry

Your dog may not be too happy with this program, and it’s suggested that you invite your neighbors over, so they don’t complain. What your child and guests will observe is a lesson in pyrotechnics, the science of making fireworks. We’ll make and light a sparkler and observe some “fireworks in a pan”. See a miniature volcano, replete with fire, smoke and volcanic ash. You will see an example of one of the hottest chemical reactions known to man, as we produce molten iron in a brilliant pyrotechnic display. Find out why water isn’t always the greatest fire extinguisher, as we see some metals and other materials that will burn or explode when placed in water. See a material that ignites when it is exposed to air. As a grand finale, witness a recreation of the Hindenburg disaster (Oh, the humanity!), but one in which no one gets hurt and there is no property damage (except for a rubber balloon that is blown to smithereens!).

The Thermite Reaction

Dr. Friedman starts the reaction with a propane torch.

The magnesium ribbon fuse burns.


At full strength the reaction reaches an infernal 3000°C (5432°F).

After a few seconds small explosions continue to sputter above the clay pots while molten iron drips out the bottom and smoulders in the sand bucket below.


As the reaction winds down liquid iron can be seen solidifying in the sand bucket below.

Close-up of the cooling metal.

* This program requires an outdoor venue and is best suited to homes that have a large backyard that is somewhat secluded from neighbors. If this is not your situation, the party can be held at Eureka Solutions, Inc. headquarters in Deerfield, IL. We do not mind a little fire damage to our grass (although that’s never actually happened).