Blog // Connected Tennessee

Happy 4th of July: The Technology Behind Fireworks

By Jennifer Cobb

Each year on July 4, as a way to honor Independence Day, the standard celebration has involved an awe-inspiring fireworks display. Tomorrow evening, there is sure to be many a fireworks display across the country, but did you know that fireworks originated in China? In fact, China is actually the largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks in the world. 

The fireworks industry, or pyrotechnics, has been totally transformed with technological advances since its accidental discovery in a Chinese kitchen. Today, a network of explosives, wires, firing cues, and a computer orchestrates the spectacular effects. Fireworks can also be ignited by a microchip activated remotely, meaning not only can the exact time for the firework to leave the mortar be pre-programmed, so too can the exact time in the sky for the shell to give its effect.

While the typical neighborhood 4th of July show may not be choreographed to music or even pre-planned as to which shells are going off at what time, most of the high-profile, higher-budget shows are choreographed and fine-tuned by pyrotechnic designers using a sophisticated software technology that provides a video simulation of what the show will look like – even from different camera angles.

A lot has changed since the days of hand-lit explosives, when technicians would have to ignite the fuses by hand, putting them in close proximity to other dangerous explosives. These advances in the industry have tremendously mitigated the risk of serious injury, and although the technology behind these stunning displays is not what makes a fireworks show memorable, it is interesting to discover how impactful technology is in ways we don’t think of. 

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