Senko-hanabi are a Japanese firework, somewhat similar to a sparkler. But instead of being driven by burning powder, the senko-hanabi’s sparks come from bursting liquid droplets undergoing an exothermic reaction with air.
Chemistry aside, the effect is similar to what goes on in soda water. As bubbles within the liquid nucleate and move to the surface, they burst, generating smaller droplets. As the researchers explain, the same cascade carries on in the smaller drops, creating the branching sparks the firework is known for.
For more slow motion views of the fireworks and sparks, check out the video below or those produced by the researchers. (Image and research credit: C. Inoue et al. and C. Inoue et al.; video credit: NightHawkInLight; submitted by Jason C.)