Why are fireworks red, blue or orange? The color of a firework comes from using a specific metal ion, such as copper for the color blue.
Fireworks are just one of the many uses of metal ions.
These ions are helpful for boosting fireworks’ brilliance. But in other contexts, they can be harmful. When they appear in nature in large enough quantities, metal ions like lead, cadmium and mercury are environmental pollutants.
That’s why Nebraska researcher Rebecca Lai and students in the Lai lab are developing sensors for metal ion detection. The paper strip sensors are small and cost-effective. They can also be taken into the field to generate a much quicker test result, which could be critical in areas where contamination threatens water quality.
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