|From How Sparklers Work
A sparkler burns over a long period of time (up to a minute) and produces extremely bright and showery light. Sparklers are often referred to as snowball sparklers because of the ball of sparks that surrounds the burning portion of the sparkler. A sparkler consists of several different compounds:
Potassium nitrate is a very common oxidizer. The fuel is charcoal and sulfur, as in black powder. The binder can be sugar or starch. Mixed with water, these chemicals form a slurry that can be coated on a wire (by dipping) or poured into a tube. Once it dries, you have a sparkler. When you light it, the sparkler burns from one end to the other (like a cigarette). The fuel and oxidizer are proportioned, along with the other chemicals, so that the sparkler burns slowly rather than exploding like a firecracker.
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