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Formation of ozone by fireworks


Ozone is a secondary pollutant and greenhouse gas that is formed from molecular oxygen in the presence of sunlight and nitrogen oxides. The extent of production also depends on the presence of volatile hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and methane1,2,3,4,5,6. But we have discovered a surprising source of ozone which is generated in spontaneous bursts even in the absence of sunlight and nitrogen oxides — namely, the exuberant mass of colour-emitting sparklers that are lit during the Diwali festivities, which take place every year during October and November in Delhi, India. The underlying process of ozone formation resembles that induced by ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere7,8.

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Correspondence to Arun K. Attri.

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Figure 1: Ambient concentration (parts per billion by volume) of O3 (red circles), NO (green) and NO2 (blue) in the environment as a function of time after lighting colour-emitting 'pencil' sparklers.


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