List of Common Pyrotechnic Chemicals

This list is not complete

Acetone ( formula = C3H6O)
Flammable liquid solvent. Used when water is inappropriate as a solvent.

Aluminum ( formula = Al)
Fuel - produces a brilliant and bright flame. Dark aluminum is used in flash.

Aluminum Oxide (formula = Al2O3)
White powder used in making old time paste plugs

Ammonium Chloride ( formula = NH3*HCl)
Used in white smoke compositions.

Ammonium Dichromate (formula = (NH4)2Cr2O7)

Catalyst for ammonium nitrate formulas and also an oxidizer used in volcanoes

Ammonium Perchlorate ( formula = NH4ClO4)
Widely-used oxidizer for blues and other colors.

Antimony Trisulfide ( formula = Sb2S3)
A fuel - comes in two flavors, Chinese Needle (for star compositions) and dark (for enhancing flash)

Arsenic Trisulfide (realgar) ( formula = As2S2 )
Poisonous - Red arsenic - Generally not available but used in many older formulas. Several websites have confused this with antimony trisulfide. For some formulas, Sb2S3 can be substituted for realgar.

Asphaltum (gilsonite)

Dark brown powder - carbon fuel

Barium Carbonate ( formula = BaCO3)
A green color agent - needs a chlorine donor

Barium Chlorate ( formula = BaClO3 )
Oxidizer use in green color compositions.

Barium Nitrate ( formula = Ba[NO3]2)
Can be used as a green color agent and oxidizer.

Barium Sulfate ( formula = BaSO4)
High temp oxidizer used in chuffing rocket fuels

Bentonite (see clay)

Bismuth Trioxide ( formula = Bi2O3)
Used to make Dragon's eggs and as a substitute for toxic lead oxides

Bismuth Subcarbonate ( formula = [BiO]2CO3)
Used to make Dragon's eggs and as a substitute for toxic lead oxides

Boric Acid ( formula = H3BO3)
Weak acid used to prevent runaway reactions in compositions containing aluminum/magnesium and a nitrate.

Cab-O-Sil ( formula = SiO2)
Used as an anti-caking agent. Add .5% to potassium nitrate and mill it - the nitrate will be free flowing.

Calcium Carbonate ( chalk) ( formula = CaCO3)
Neutralizes acidic compositions and used as an orange coloring agent

Calcium Sulfate
High temperature oxidizer in orange color compositions or in strobe compositions.

Charcoal ( formula = C)
Charcoal is the by-product of the burning of organic substances in the absence of oxygen. There are many types of charcoal - charcoal is not just carbon (as implied by the formula). Its reactivity is dependent on the type of wood used to make it. Although other materials besides wood can be used, wood is the most common material and black willow one of the most popular.

Chlorowax (chlorinated paraffin resin)

Cream colored powder Used as a chlorine donor (70% chlorine).

Clay (also bentonite and kitty litter)
Powder used for plugs and nozzles in fountains, drivers, rockets, and other devices.

CMC (sodium carboxymethylcellulose, cellulose gum)

White powder Used as a binder or thickening agent.

Confectioners Sugar ( formula = C12H22O11)
Can be used with an oxidizer such as potassium nitrate to create smoke devices or rocket fuel.

Copper Acetoarsenite ( paris green) ( formula = Cu3As2O3Cu( formula = C2H3O2) 2)
The best blue color agent but rarely used because it is so poisonous.

Copper Benzoate ( formula = Cu[C6H5COO]2)
Fuel used in blue color compositions.

Copper( II) Carbonate ( formula = CuCO3)
Blue color agent.

Copper Chlorate( formula = Cu[ClO3]2*6H2O)
Used as an oxidizer in blue color compositions.

Copper(II) Chloride ( campfire blue) ( formula = CuCl2)
Brownish-yellow compound used as a blue color agent.

Copper Chromite ( formula = CuCr2O4)
Catalyst for whistles and other fuels

Copper(II) Oxide ( formula = CuO)
Black powder used as a blue color agent and can be used as a catalyst in whistle mixes.

Copper Oxychloride ( formula = 3CuO*CuCl2*3.5H2O)
Green powder used as a blue color agent or catalyst in whistle mixes.

Copper(II) Sulfate ( formula = CuSO4*5H2O)
Blue color agent.

Copper Benzoate ( formula = Cu[C6H5COO]2)
Fuel and blue color agent.

Cryolite (sodium fluoaluminate) ( formula = Na3AlF6)
White powder used as a yellow color agent.

Dechlorane ( formula = C10Cl12)
Chlorine donor.

Dextrin ( formula = C6H10O5)
Water activated glue/binder commonly used to bind stars and make crunchy pulverone BP.

Ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol) ( formula = CH3CH2OH)
Solvent for organic fuels

Alloy of iron and titanium (typically 60/40), used to create bright sparking displays in rocket fuels, fountains, etc

Gallic Acid ( formula = C7H6O5*H2O)
Fuel used to create whistles.

Gilsonite (see Asphaltum)

Gum Arabic
A water-soluble binder

Grog (Crushed ceramic - make some by beating up some floor tile)

Used in making high temperature nozzles and plugs and to give nozzles a 'bite' so they stick to the wall of the rocket motor.


Guar Gum

Water-soluble binder

Hexachlorethane ( formula = C2Cl6)
White powder used as a chlorine donor

Hexamine (formula = C6H12N4)
Low reactivity fuel used in blue star compositions.

Iron ( formula = Fe)
Gray metallic powder used to create yellow non-branching sparks, mainly in sparklers and fountains.

Iron(II) Oxide (ferrous oxide) ( formula = FeO*Fe2O3 or Fe3O4)
Black powder used as a high-temperature oxidizer in thermite or catalyst for whistle fuels

Iron(III) Oxide (ferric oxide) ( formula = FeO*Fe2O3 or Fe3O4)
Red powder used as a catalyst or in thermites

Kitty Litter (see clay)

Lactose (milk sugar) ( formula = C12H22O11*2H2O)
White powder used in smoke compositions and as a fuel.

Lampblack (carbon black) ( formula = C)
Fine form of charcoal (and really messy!). Produces long lasting and finely dispersed sparks.

Lead Dioxide ( formula = PbO2)
An oxidizer used in friction-sensitive compositions, such as matches.

Lead Tetraoxide ( formula = Pb3O4)
Red powder most commonly used to make Dragon's eggs and hot primes.

Manganese Dioxide ( formula = MnO2)
White powder used as a catalyst in whistles.

Magnalium (magnesium-aluminum) ( formula = Mg/Al)
Alloy of magnesium and aluminum, that is easier to work with than magnesium and easier to light than aluminum but gives much of the same results of each.

Magnesium ( formula = Mg)
Reacive and flammable metal with a very bright flame.

Methanol ( formula = CH3OH)
Solvent used to dissolve red gum and shellac

Methylene Chloride  (formula = CH2Cl2)

Clear liquid Solvent for PVC; used in solvent bonding plastic shell halves together.

Nitrocellulose Lacquer ( formula = C6H7N3O11)
Flammable liquid used primarily as a binder, and as a water-resistant coating.

Parlon ( formula = C4H6Cl2)
A chlorine donor and binder. (68% available chlorine)

Potassium Benzoate ( formula = C6H5KO2)
Fuel for whistle compositions

Potassium Chlorate ( formula = KClO3)
Strong oxidizer used for a range of colored star, smokes and flashes.  When mixed with sulfur or sulfur bearing compounds, it becomes very sensitive. Not used by many hobbyists because of its sensitivity. It is easier to ignite than potassium perchlorate.

Potassium Dichromate ( formula = K2Cr2O7)
Carcinogenic orange crystalline powder used to treat magnesium so it is less reactive to nitrates. Can also be used as a catalyst

Potassium Nitrate (saltpeter) ( formula = KNO3)
Most commonly used oxidizer. The most important application for it is as a key ingredient in making black powder.

Potassium Perchlorate ( formula = KClO4)
Strong oxidizer that is more stable than potassium chlorate. It can be used for rocket fuels (whistles, etc) and for flash and other compounds requiring strong oxidation. It's ignition temperature is higher than potassium chlorate but it is still preferred by many hobbyists because it is relatively safer to handle than potassium chlorate mixtures.

Potassium Sulfate (formula = K2SO4)

High temperature oxidizer in some white strobe compositions.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
Chlorine donor/binder (57% available chlorine)

Red Gum (accaroid resin)
Organic fuel and binder.

Rice Hulls

When coated with burst-powder, rice hulls are used to break shells.

Saran (chlorinated polymer)
Chlorine donor/binder (73% available chlorine)

Fine (60-100 mesh wood flour) used as slow burning fuel or to enhance star ignition (Veline's prime)

SGRS (see Soluble Glutinous Rice Starch)

Shellac ( formula = C16H26O4)
Fuel and binder (from insects native to India)

Silicon (Si)

Used to increase the effectiveness of ignition or priming compositions by raising the flame temperature and producing molten glass droplets.

Sodium Benzoate ( formula = NaC7O2H5)
Fuel for whistle mix. More hydroscopic than potassium benzoate

Sodium Chlorate ( formula = NaClO3)
Hygroscopic oxidizer used in some rocket propellants

Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose (see CMC)

Sodium Nitrate (chile saltpeter) ( formula = NaNO3 )
Hygroscopic oxidizer used to make yellow flames

Sodium Oxalate ( formula = Na2C2O4 )
Yellow color agent.

Sodium Salicylate ( formula = NaC7H5O3 )
Fuel for whistles

Sodium Silicate (Waterglass) ( formula = Na2OĽ2SiO2 )
Used in pyro adhesives, particularly in rolling cup sets in sawdust and for making paper tubes fire resistant. Water soluble.

Soluble Glutinous Rice Starch

Superior binder commonly used in Japan; sometimes as a glue or to bind star compositions.


Stearic Acid (N-octadecanoic acid) ( formula = C18H36O2)

Used as a phlegmatizing agent, a low reactivity fuel

Steel Powder
Used to make branching sparks in stars and fountains

Strontium Carbonate ( formula = SrCO3)
Red color agent

Strontium Nitrate ( formula = Sr[NO3]2)
Oxidizer used in red color compositions and some rocket fuels.

Strontium Sulfate ( formula = SrSO4)
High-temperature Oxidizer sometimes used in red color compositions.

Sulfur ( formula = S)
Fuel and ignition temperature modifier (used in BP to increase the burn rate)

Titanium ( formula = Ti)
Metal used to produce bright white sparks. Comes in sponge (hazardous shipping) or flakes.

Titanium Dioxide (formula = TiO2)
Used to decrease speed of whistle fuel (for longer whistles) or to modify whistle tone.

Xylene ( formula = C8H10 )
Solvent for PVC and binder for plastic shells

Zinc ( formula = Zn)
In powdered form used as rocket propellant and some star (pearl) formulas

Zinc Oxide ( formula = ZnO)
Used to produce white smoke