Chemistry Question #240

Umit K, a 11 year old male from the Internet asks on November 6, 2001,

Is there a way to make a simple smoke bomb that isn't poisonous or harmful? How would I be able to change the colour smoke it gives off?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on November 5, 2001

If you are interested in smokebombs for paintball, go to google and type in: paintball smoke. You'll find a few websites where you can order such things for around $5 - $15.

Most home-made smoke bombs are a bit dangerous. As far as I know there is no "safe" smoke bomb. Many of the colours of pyrotechnics are made with toxic chemicals, so this would not be a good idea either

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Many readers have suggested the classic recipe of saltpeter (KNO3, potassium nitrate) and sugar, but this needs to be cooked and it can blow up while you heat it, so this is not recommended. One reader (a fifth form student in New Zealand) claims that you can make this kind of smoke bomb by mixing 3 parts KNO3 with 5 parts sugar, add a bit of powder from a firecracker or sparkler to get it started. Make sure you do this outside. Another reader (Gizmo) says: "I have cooked these smoke bombs all the time.  Cooking on low heat involves zero risk.  You can tell when the heat is to high when the color gets a dark black.  It looks like peanut butter at the right temperature." NOTE: Do this outside, not in the house.

The other classic idea involves a ping-pong ball wrapped in aluminum foil but that also gives off somewhat toxic fumes as well as smoke.

Concerning the formula for making a smoke bomb, one chemist once said, "I tell kids if they can write down the instructions without using their hands, I'll give them the recipe."

Any search at for "smoke bomb" will very quickly find a recipe for you. Main point: do it outside!!!

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