How do party poppers pop?

Party poppers are basically tiny sticks of dynamite inside a plastic seal. Of course, the explosion generated is nowhere near as dangerous as any proper explosives, but the bang can still be a surprise for some.

Inside the popper is an assortment of confetti, in addition to a small stick containing the gunpowder and two disks, made of plastic or cardboard. The stick consists of paper or plastic wrapped around a tiny amount of gunpowder, typically much less than 1mg (federal law in the US allows for up to 50mg in fireworks). A string runs a few centimetres into the handle of the popper and comes out the other side for someone to pull.

When the string is pulled it creates friction within the stick as it rubs against the sides. This creates heat and ignites the gunpowder, producing a small explosion and the trademark party popper ‘bang’. The explosion moves outwards through the confined space, pushing the first disk into about a dozen rolls of colourful confetti. This forward motion continues into the second disk enclosing the popper, allowing the rolls of confetti to be flung into the air and unravelled.

Inside a party popper

Inside a party popper

A party popper explosion

A party popper explosion

Find answers to more curious questions in the latest issue of How It Works magazine. It’s available from all good retailers, or you can order it online from the ImagineShop. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, make sure you subscribe today!

Plus, take a look at:

How do fireworks explode?

How do fireworks make shapes?

How do Christmas crackers work?

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