ever since the very first anniversary of
the birth of the United States on July 4 1777 fireworks have been used as a way
to mark and celebrate this occasion the crack flash boom are connected to many
holidays around the world but at least in the u.s. none are more prominent than
the fourth in this video I’ll be exploring the history of the
groundbreaking technology behind these displays and what it takes to produce it
myself from scratch sourcing the main three ingredients from several unique
sources and abandoned sulphur mine near Death Valley the process excrements from
bats and charred wood and hopefully I’ll manage to keep all my fingers in the
process my name is Andy and this is how to make everything first a warning the
compounds that we made and used in this video can be potentially dangerous I’ve
taken great care to where closely experienced professionals in order to do
this as safe as possible the laws regarding producing your own fireworks
vary from region to region but I’ve made the best attempt to follow through with
doing everything legally well fireworks are deeply connected with the American
holiday of Independence Day like most things in America most of it’s actually
made in China with eighty five point six of all firework exports worldwide coming
from China but this is rather fitting as China is also the birthplace of
fireworks itself the first fireworks were believed to be made simply by
burning sticks at bamboo which in high heats
would make a loud bang this is caused by the air trapped in that bamboo it
expands as it heats it eventually builds up enough pressure to burst through the
bamboo fiber causing a loud bang this startling noise became a part of Chinese
culture and was believed to be able to expel evil spirits and bring about luck
and happiness Warner fireworks achieved its modern form after discovery of an
even more reactive compound in the ninth century
gunpowder gunpowder is composed of three unique compounds sulfur charcoal and
potassium nitrate individually these compounds are fairly nonreactive
but together they form a very fast burning fire
there are three parts needed for a fire oxygen heat and fuel the sulfur and
charcoal act as a fuel while the potassium nitrate provides oxygen as an
oxidizer using sulfur as the added benefit of burning out lower temperature
decreasing the initial amount of heat required for ignition similar to the
heated air trapped in the bamboo this rapid fire produces an expansion of
gases and releases energy at a much higher magnitude this technology allowed
it to be contained used as firecrackers or explosives or directed and used as a
propellant for rocketry but now it’s time to make my own fireworks
hopefully just in time for Independence Day the first ingredient takes me to
Death Valley in California following a long windy road through the mountains I
reached an abandoned mining site craters sulfur mine continuing the largest
sulfur deposit west of the Mississippi this area was home to a small mining
town started in the 1920s in 1953 a sulphur dust explosion destroyed the
main mill site it was mined off and on the following years but today remains
abandoned so I’m here just the northern tip of Death Valley and this is what
used to be a sulphur mine that can tell it blew up which isn’t surprising with
sulfur it’s a bit flammable so it’s gonna be used for making fireworks do
you look at it it’s got a slight yellow hue to it you get up close there’s these
really pure chunks of sulfur in there so I’m just gonna hook the bucket of that
and take it home with me make some fireworks all right got a bucket of sulphur and it
smells horrible here like rotten eggs let me get out of here
well sulfur in hand the next key ingredient is potassium nitrate there
are few methods to sources crucial ingredient the one I’m gonna attempt
involves bats and their droppings I’ve read into angry bats before well in an
old mine in Utah but this time I’m getting some help from Jill at the
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge for some help finding some back
wattle so what kinda bats do you find around here so we have seven different
species that are found in Minnesota borac a bat species and three tree bats
so this is actually this is a four chambered house so it’s kind of it
actually could house up to maybe 150 200 bats pretty amazing there are four
different slots there and the bats kind of just they kind of crammed in there
and this would be for a maternity colony several females and their young so our
cave bats are the ones that actually they tough it out and they hang out here
over the winter months and hibernate in our caves and mines our migratory tree
bats they’re the ones that actually leave for the winter similar to our
migratory birds so actually all of our bats species do roost in trees over the
summer months so right now they’d probably be in one of these roosts they
would be yeah lotta trees that we have here that’d be suitable for ruse and a
lot of times what they’re keying into our areas on the trees where there’s a
little bit of today that’s happening and maybe some peeling bark areas where
there’s cracks or crevices that have formed earlier in the summer
usually these maternity roofs so these females in their young there’s usually a
lot more of them kind of congregating together and as the summer goes on and
the young kind of start growing up or getting older and are able to fly then
they start dispersing and so the roost size really kind of decreases over the
course this summer you helped me find some of the roots around here yeah so
some of these trees here you can see some peeling bark that type of thing and
and that’s usually where these bats the maternity colonies at least will be
found so when you’re when you’re in walking in the woods and you see you
know maybe a dead tree a snake with some bark peeling off you know that
could be a bat roost and we encourage if people have the
types of trees on their property if it’s not a safety hazard to just leave them
because actually they’re really great that habitat so what I’m interested in
is their actual droppings where you normally find that is there like under
the roost they go whenever so they’re you know you know sometimes when they’re
flying but then also when they are roosting and so it’s kind of interesting
because again that’s you know they hang upside down but they can actually change
their position when they’re roosting what’s so special about the back one
back one is very high in nitrogen which is a great fertilizer so our bats around
here they’re insectivores and so they eat
actually a ton of these these pests they save farmers billions of dollars every
year also at the festival we have a bat mono activity where folks can actually
look through a high-powered microscope and figure out exactly what that bat was
eating and sometimes you’ll see just those different parts of the insects so
you won’t see them whole the wildlife refuge has an annual event in July
covering local bats so if you want to learn more and live nearby I recommend
checking it out but as for my guano unfortunately I wasn’t able to located
in guano deposits and they weren’t super comfortable with me stealing stuff from
the reserve so I left empty-handed well for Chris happens to know someone who’s
collected leftover guano from bats these live in their attic and he was able to
hook us up with a bucket of guano the potassium nitrate is water soluble so
extracting it as a matter soaking the guano for a day than stringing out the
solids all right I’m rolling if you want to
play with some shit do I ever then straighten it once more
with a finer coffee filter wait this isn’t the right footage and then laying it out too slowly
evaporate and the potassium nitrate should hopefully crystallize another
solution the hot humid summers of Minnesota can make this a bit of a pain
so I set up a desiccant to help assist in sucking out the moisture playing the solution evaporate the
potassium nitrate should start to form a small white crystals on the surface
scraping off the tiny crystals I can reset rate and repeat to slowly get a
more concentrated solution lastly it can be recrystallized to form a fairly pure
final result the last compound needed for the propellant is charcoal charcoal
acts as a fuel for the fire and is made by burning wood in a low oxygen
environment which burns off you’ll eat everything but pure carbon to make my
charcoal I’m gonna use a simple method of just a paint can with a few vents
punched into it first I need to burn up lining then fill it with a soft wood
stick it on the fire and bake it in the oxygen and the can will be used up right
away allowing the impurities to heat up vaporize and escape off the vents once
the gas stops escaping it should be complete and just needs to be sealed I’m
left to cool come back the next day and inside should be my new batch of
charcoal and now have the three main ingredients
for the propellant completed but there are still two more ingredients I’ll need
binding agent called dextran and the body of the firework itself for the body
I’m gonna take a note from its historical Chinese roots and use bamboo I’m at a nursery in Santa Cruz where they grow bamboo They have a whole bunch of varieties of different bamboo Pretty Cool It’s a grass Even though it looks like a tree So going to try and find a few different stalks to use for fireworks as the body Years ago I was in Hangzhou and got to experience an actual bamboo forest, this is just a recreation this is kind of just a recreation it feels pretty….pretty similar it’s pretty cool to walk down just a bunch of grass that’s like 20 feet tall pretty cool can I fit that in a carryon? I’m here at their cuttings pile where
they have all their scraps to do the select a few decent pieces try and
somehow fit into my carry-on and in the process I’ve made a bloody mess of my
hand so I pack this up bandage myself up before I bleed to death the binding
agent dextran is made from corn flour previously I collected some corn at a
corn maze my attempt to make my own candy corn I still have a bit left over
so I just need to grind that into flour strain it and then bake it in the oven
at 400 degrees Fahrenheit this breaks down the corn starch produces the
binding compound dextran corn is something that can be used in a lot of
different things so before I use up all my corn actually
planning some of it and have a whole new crop of it coming in amongst a bunch of
other plans for future episodes now with all the needed ingredients I just need
to put together my fireworks this is when things can become hazardous
depending on where you live potentially illegal so that portion will be a
separate non-monetized video if you are interested in producing your own
fireworks there are many clubs organizations you
can connect with who can help you pursue this hobby in a safe manner pyrotechnics
always has an inherent risk and caution is advised even when using store-bought
now what’s been built the moment of truth time to set them off and see how
well this is a template I tried making my own firecracker
with some of my leftover paper like that didn’t work super great but I also made
a couple fireworks called mines and over all my fuses were a little
unpredictable I’m not really sure if that was how it’s
supposed to go but I’m reasonably satisfied overall the end result is both
amazing considering the journey need to produce everything and harness this
powerful chemical reaction but also a bit disappointing compared to the
countless professionally produced fireworks I’ve seen in my lifetime also
the fact that a bunch of kids came in and started launching their more
impressive store-bought fireworks right next to us definitely didn’t help
overall though I think I’ve managed to recreate something that is at least
somewhat similar to how the fireworks were first made I made some simpler
fireworks for this first attempt earlier this summer I’m hoping to connect with
some experts take things to the next level and start getting into rocketry
this video was a big risk for us as it has a decent chance of getting
demonetised resulting in a bunch of wasted time and money we won’t get back
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