Synthesizing alternatives to fireworks

Developing more sustainable alternatives to update the culturally ingrained ritual of fireworks.

Why fireworks transformation?

We know that ~94% of air pollution in India is caused by stubble burning (36%), construction work (30%) and vehicle emissions (28%). But...


patients attended the emergency burn care out-patients clinic during 2002–2010.


jump in air pollution during five hours after 18:00 local time.

117.8 dB

was the maximum noise level recorded in Mumbai (2017).


of the victims caused by the fireworks were 5–30 years old.

The neuroscience behind fireworks

It's not like we're devoid of options. We seem to have a lot of alternatives when it comes to fireworks but then why the populace at large are not adapting any of the solutions?

1. It’s because they scare us—in the way we want to be scared.

We can thank the activation of our amygdala – a little ball of nerves in the brain that detects fear – for this sense of delight while watching a grand display of fireworks. What happens is that after the lights have stimulated the anticipation of a threat, the impending boom of the firework confirms what we knew would happen in our brains. In response, our reward centers release a surge of dopamine—a chemical that regulates pleasure.

2. Magnificent colors fascinate us

Not only do we like the loud, predictable crash, boom, bang, but we like the magnificent colors as well. We can thank metal salts for these neuron-stimulating hues. As these compounds heat up and eventually go ka-boom, the changes in color produce a dazzling effect—an ooh at the initial blazing beam, and an aah as the glittering tails dissolve in the dark.

3. We just love surprises

This unexpectedness of color is also why fireworks are so captivating; even if we wanted to, we’re hardwired not to look away from the light. The rapid fire pops and bright, new pigments force us to freeze as the brain investigates the sudden influx of sound and color.

4. Recalling happy memories — and creating new ones

One of the most potent reasons why we continue to indulge in firecrackers is perhaps the most obvious one — conditioning. When children are socialized into associating fireworks with notions of celebration and jubilance, they seek to relive that socialization even into adulthood, to preserve the memories they made as a child.

Proposed solution

Balloon fabricated with paper substrate coated with a surface-emitting LEEC filled with helium and thousands of light-emitting biodegradable materials.

Paper substrate balloon

A balloon prepared with a paper substrate coated with surface-emitting LEEC.

Triggering system

Ignition coil ensuring that the balloon will burn exactly when you need them to–every time.

Biodegradable materials

Filled with helium and thousands of light-emitting biodegradable materials.

Piyush Raj
A fresh perspective

“For many people the current situation feels restrictive, as traditional fireworks are getting prohibited everywhere in India. And with good reasons. But, I believe that festivals such as Diwali and Chhath are important for communities to gather together and cherish their cultures. The Pyronegesis Project is trying to find a new sustainable alternative of fireworks so we can continue to celebrate together.” - Piyush Raj

Synthesizing alternatives to fireworks.