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10 Mar 23:43 108,117 views | Last edited by mathew about 1 month ago

WheeTrometer 2.0

by bhickman | 3 days ago | 2 | 248 views | 2

WheeTrometer 2.0 What we want to do: We want to provide an affordable, open source spectrophoto...

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Pesticide Monitoring Data Website

by silverhammer | 9 days ago | 2 | 391 views | 1

What I want to do I want to take the work I've done on testing pesticide levels in raspberries, ...

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pesticides pesticide spectrometer raspberries

Low Cost Non destructive Whole fruit Analysis

by Ethan | 10 days ago | 2 | 523 views | 1

What I want to do Having read some of the research notes in this community, I guess this line of...

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non-destructive Fruit spoilage ripening

reducing reflections in foldup spec

by liz | 13 days ago | 2 | 384 views | 1

Originally, it was stoft who pointed out that the shininess of cell phones backs when using the f...

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fold-up spectrometer reflection

An attempt to test olive oil substance with spectrometer.

by muyueh | 13 days ago | 1 | 452 views | 1

What I want to do An attempt to test olive oil substance with spectrometer. This will happen ton...

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spectrometer oil taipei olive-oil

Selenium detection methods & ideas on e-cigarette atomizers for DIY analysis

by warren | 15 days ago | 3 | 670 views | 2

This PDF has some great notes on all different approaches for measuring selenium in soil, water, ...

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spectrometer e-cigarette selenium flame

DIY Micro Volume Spectrophotometer

by gaudi | 20 days ago | 3 | 587 views | 2

Attempt to build DIY Microvolume Spectrophotometers or Fluorospectrometers to quantitate micro-vo...

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nanometer Nano-Drop Spectrometer Sampling

Test Rig for Portable Spectrometer

by silverhammer | about 1 month ago | 2 | 706 views | 1

What I want to do I got inspired from this post on checking oils spills posted earlier. What in...

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spectrometer light-source portable

More research on "spectrometer" »

Title Last edited Edits Pageviews Likes
Pesticide Detection Methods Development about 23 hours ago by silverhammer 24 3,124 6
Smartphone spectrometer about 1 month ago by mathew 26 7,865 1
Oil Testing Kit 28 days ago by warren 8 1,416 2
The Homebrew Sensing Project about 1 month ago by warren 4 793 0
Refinery Watching about 1 month ago by danbeavers 15 2,577 3
Spectrometer Curriculum 28 days ago by bicwood 25 4,812 3
Spectral Analysis Techniques 3 months ago by Markos 7 2,638 1
Desktop Spectrometry Kit 3 days ago by pablo 32 21,477 3
Spectrometry Sampling 13 days ago by warren 19 4,227 1
Spectral Workbench API 9 days ago by warren 28 4,743 2
Spectral analysis 4 months ago by warren 24 12,744 2
How Kickstarter backers will use the spectrometer 7 months ago by Becki 4 4,050 0
Countertop Spectrometer 7 months ago by warren 7 2,595 0
Spectrometry Meetups 9 months ago by liz 3 1,322 1
Foldable Mini-Spectrometer 12 days ago by warren 14 28,726 2
spectrometer-media 9 months ago by warren 1 1,515 0
Suggested Spectrometer Readings 9 months ago by PeterDavidowicz 10 2,444 0
Spectral Challenge ideas 9 months ago by philippg 18 2,838 3
Spectrometry health applications 8 months ago by warren 10 2,476 1
Spectral Workbench exporting 11 months ago by warren 6 2,396 0
DIYBIO Ideas and Applications 11 months ago by briandegger 3 1,617 2
Spectrometer materials list 12 months ago by warren 41 7,699 0
Ultraviolet spectrometry 12 months ago by warren 13 5,617 2
Spectral Challenge Teams about 1 year ago by warren 1 1,277 0
Spectral Challenge 3 months ago by warren 30 4,629 1
Spectrometry FAQ over 1 year ago by warren 1 1,443 0
Spectral Workbench offline over 1 year ago by warren 4 3,555 0
Spectrometer construction over 1 year ago by warren 4 10,423 0
Spectrometer preorders over 1 year ago by warren 1 1,023 2
Dynamic Reference Spectrometer 2 months ago by jasonbarresi 1 981 3

Order a spectrometer kit or smartphone spectrometer today at the
Public Lab Store »

The DIY Spectrometry Kit Kickstarter video from Sept 2012, a great intro to the project.


Chemists use expensive tools called spectrometers (there are several kinds) to analyze unknown solid or liquid samples.

We are working on a cheap version which we hope to use to identify oil contamination in water and soil, as well as a range of other possible toxins.

Spectrometers can also be used to identify species of plants or crop diseases, assess plumes from smokestacks, and have many other applications.

Spectrometry diagram


What's spectrometry?

What we perceive as a single color consists of multiple blended colors- just as green paint can be made from mixing yellow and blue paint. A spectrometer is a device that splits light into the various colors it is composed of, which we otherwise cannot distinguish with the naked eye. By viewing a substance through a spectrometer, one can distinguish the exact mixture of colors, which correspond to specific wavelengths of light. These can be compared to other spectra to help identify the sample.

Public Lab Desktop Spectrometry KitPublic Lab Desktop Spectrometry Kit

Make a spectrometer

The Public Lab Spectrometer is a Do-it-Yourself device made from simple materials:

  • stiff black card paper
  • a clean DVD-R
  • a USB webcam (preferably HD)
  • a Type LB conduit body (basically a light-proof box with a couple holes)
  • double-sided foam tape and a box cutter/x-acto knife

The DVD's tightly packed grooves act as a diffraction grating -- basically a prism.

Spectrometer construction »

The above link offers step-by-step instructions on making your own spectrometer. It features:

  • around 400-900 nanometer range, maybe wider (what you can see with the naked eye, plus some infrared)
  • 5-10 nm spectral resolution
  • 20-30 samples per second
  • ~ $15 in materials
  • < 1 hour construction time
  • open-source software

Though these specs look pretty good, they still need to be compared rigorously with a traditional laboratory spectrometer. Are you interested in trying it?

Uses for open source spectrometry

As we ship to the different Kickstarter backers, we are posting how people have said they plan to use their spectrometers.

One group of toxins common to fossil fuel contamination are PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are generally carcinogenic. We're trying to develop a step-by-step experimental procedure to prepare a soil or water sample, shine a full-spectrum light (like a halogen lamp) through it, and detect the missing wavelengths.

If you're interested, please chip in to develop and document a consistent way to read samples here:

Spectrometer usage »

We're also putting together a list of research (some of it our own) to draw upon in developing spectral analysis techniques for anything from soil to grapes to coffee:

Spectral Analysis »

Spectral Workbench new interface

Online spectral analysis

Along with the physical tool itself, the PLOTS community has also developed a software suite and online database which allows anyone to upload their data and work with others to try to interpret it. These tools are early prototypes and we're looking for help developing them.

Finally, a FAQ with some insights about actually using your spectrometer can be found here:Spectrometer FAQ

Advanced topics


This is an early-stage, speculative project, but our goals include:

Older designs

Several older designs have been documented on this site. Guides have been made showing you how to make some of these; they include:

Spectrometers in popular culture

LeVar Burton uses a Public Lab spectrometer at SXSW

The Homebrew Sensing Project is made possible by the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Knight News Challenge: Health.


Tags: spectrometer list:plots-spectrometry tabbed:notes tabbed:wikis tool