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While there are smoke-generating devices that are dropped from airplanes, the term "smoke bomb" is used to describe the three types of devices:
- A smoke ball is a hollow, cherry-sized sphere of brightly colored clay or cardboard filled with a smoke-generating composition that produces a forceful jet of colored smoke for 10 to 15 seconds. The usual chemical equation is 48 KNO3 + 5 C12H22O11 → 24 K2CO3 + 36 CO2 + 55 H2O + 24 N2.
- A smoke candle (also called a smoke generator or smoke canister) is a cylindrical cardboard tube with a fuse, usually 1 1⁄2 inches (38 mm) in diameter and several inches long and resembling a giant firecracker. Such a device creates a thick cloud of smoke for up to several minutes. Uses include providing smoke for smoke testing and creating a smoke-screen for paintball and airsoft games.
- A smoke canister (or smoke grenade) is a metal can that releases smoke when a pin is pulled. Used by military personnel for signalling or as a screening device for troop movements.
The smoke bomb was first created in 1848, by British inventor Robert Yale. He developed 17th-century Chinese-style fireworks and later modified the formula to produce more smoke for a longer period of time.
Colored smoke devices use a formula that consists of an oxidizer (typically potassium chlorate, KClO3), a fuel (generally sugar), a moderate (such as sodium bicarbonate) to keep the reaction from getting too hot, and a powdered organic dye. The burning of this mixture evaporates the dye and forces it out of the device, where it condenses in the atmosphere to form a "smoke" of finely dispersed particles.
Home-made smoke bombs are usually created in two ways. The first way involves cutting up celluloid material—today the main remaining use of celluloid is ping pong balls—placing the small pieces inside an aluminium wrapping or canister, and igniting them. This practice is widely recognized to be a health hazard. Mixing the chemicals KNO3(potassium nitrate) and sugar while lightly heating the mixture until it comes to a peanut-butter-like consistency can also provide fuel for smoke-bombs.
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- Media related to Smoke bombs at Wikimedia Commons