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Pyrotechnics is the science of using materials capable of undergoing self-contained and self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions for the production of heat, light, gas, smoke and/or sound. Its etymology stems from the Greek words pyro ("fire") and tekhnikos ("made by art"). Pyrotechnics include not only the manufacture of fireworks but items such as safety matches, oxygen candles, explosive bolts and fasteners, components of the automotive airbag and gas pressure blasting in mining, quarrying and demolition.
Individuals responsible for the safe storage, handling, and functioning of pyrotechnic devices are referred to as pyrotechnicians.
Explosions, flashes, smoke, flames, fireworks or other pyrotechnic driven effects used in the entertainment industry are referred to as theatrical special effects, special effects, or proximate pyrotechnics. Proximate refers to the pyrotechnic device's location relative to an audience. In the majority of jurisdictions, special training and licensing must be obtained from local authorities to legally prepare and use proximate pyrotechnics.
Many musical groups use pyrotechnics to enhance their live shows. Pink Floyd were without a doubt the innovators of pyrotechnic use in concerts. For instance, at the climax of their song "Careful with That Axe, Eugene", a blast of smoke was set off at the back of the stage. Bands such as The Who, KISS and Queen, soon followed use of pyrotechnics in their shows. Michael Jackson attempted using pyrotechnics in a 1984 Pepsi advertisement, where a stray spark caused a small fire in his hair. German industrial metal band Rammstein are renowned for their large variety of pyrotechnics, which range from flaming costumes to face-mounted flamethrowers. Nightwish, Lordi and Green Day are also known for their vivid pyrotechnics in concert. Many professional wrestlers have also used pyrotechnics as part of their entrances to the ring.
- Airburst - Hanging charges designed to burst into spheres of sparks.
- Binary powders - Kits divided into separate oxidizer and fuel, intended to be mixed on site.
- Comet (meteor) - Brightly colored burning pellets resembling shooting stars.
- Mine - Tubes containing a lift charge intended to project stars, sparks, confetti or streamers.
- Preloaded Smoke Pot - Cartridges designed to release a mushroom cloud of smoke.
- Concussion (cannon simulator,concussion tube) - Device designed to create a loud report.
- Falls - Propellant with titanium burning in an open ended tube creating a falling spark effect.
- Fireballs / Mortar Hits - Short barreled device projecting smoky rolling ball of flame.
- Flame Projector - Tube containing nitrocellulose granules that burn in pillars of colored flame.
Flare (Torch) - Short, high intensity flames or various colours.
- Flash Cotton (Sparkle String) - Nitrated cotton string(nitrocellulose).
- Flashpaper - Sheets of nitrated paper (nitrocellulose) resembling tissue paper.
- Flash Pot - Short metal pot used with binary powders creating flash, smoke or sparks.
Flash Tray (split mine) - A long tube slit down one side to project a sheet of flash.
Gerb (including fountain, whistle, and waterfall) - A fountain of sparks.
- Lance - A Small colored flare tube used in making points of light lancework or pictures in fire.
- Line Rockets - Whistling or colored rocket devices that travel along guide cables.
- Multi-Tube Article (multi-shot plate, multiple shot repeater boards and bombardo boards; designed to function in sequence) - Multiple effects chained together.
- Pre-Mixed Powder - Powders intended to create various effects. (Concussions, flashes, etc.)
Squib - A small electrically initiated device replicating bullet hits.
Strobe - A brightly colored magnesium fueled flare blinking with repetitive flashes.
Wheel (Saxon) - Tubes that create a spinning wheel of sparks.
- A firing circuit using high-power, non-isolated AC line voltage can be a shock hazard to the operator and bystanders.
- The use of high-current fuses as ignitors can cause main circuit breakers and fuses to trip, due to the sudden inrush of hundreds of amperes through a dead-shorted circuit. Switches used to control ignition may be damaged from the high-current surges.
- There may not be indicators or interlocks preventing premature ignition of the pyrotechnic material. Screwing a powder-loaded fuse into an unknowingly powered socket will result in immediate ignition, injuring the operator.
- Natural Resources Canada (2003), "Pyrotechnics Special Effects Manual. Edition 2" Minister of Public Works an Government Services Canada
- NFPA (2006), "NFPA 160; Standard for Flame Effects Before an Audience" NFPA International
- NFPA (2006), "NFPA 1123; Code for Fireworks Display" NFPA International
- NFPA (2006), "NFPA 1126; Standard for the Use of Pyrotechnics before a Proximate Audience." NFPA International
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