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10 Mar 23:43 131,485 views | Last edited by mathew 5 months ago

Detection of Added Sugar in Red Wine Using Visual Light Spectroscopy

by ygzstc | about 6 hours ago | 5 | 79 views | 2

Introduction Naturally occurring sugar is the sugar found in whole, unprocessed foods, such as m...

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South of France Forest monitoring

by DroneGo | 4 days ago | 3 | 130 views | 0

What I want to do Develop a tool with Drone (Quadcopter), InfraRed camera, in forestry theme My...

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A Retrospective of Spectrometer Design Ideas 2011-2014

by mathew | 9 days ago | 0 | 345 views | 0

Here is a history of public lab spectrometer research ideas up to the present. There is really n...

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A New Orleans Event

by stevie | 14 days ago | 2 | 421 views | 1

Join us for an evening of exploring spectrometry! Could you identify a substance just by looking...

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Spectrometer slit width thoughts

by warren | 19 days ago | 5 | 373 views | 0

What I want to do I'd like to propose a couple changes to the optical slit based on observations...

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Oil testing spectrometry workshop at Fab 10

by warren | 19 days ago | 5 | 482 views | 1

I ran a small session on developing the oil test kit spectrometer yesterday in Barcelona (http://...

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Idea For Detecting Specific Emissions.

by amysoyka | 22 days ago | 7 | 285 views | 1

What I want to do Try to detect specific elements/molecules using acrylic paint to filter waves ...

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Team Orca resurrected --Gulf Monitoring Consortium test for BP tar

by eustatic | 28 days ago | 5 | 488 views | 2

Draft Reflections on the Alpha Oil Testing Kit [to be continued] Team Orca has rolled over. E...

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More research on "spectrometer" »

Title Last edited Edits Pageviews Likes
Spectrometer History about 5 hours ago by mathew 4 83 0
Oil Testing Kit about 6 hours ago by warren 57 2,587 3
Oil Testing Kit Illustrations about 8 hours ago by warren 3 18 0
Spectrometer construction about 11 hours ago by warren 5 12,555 0
Foldable Mini-Spectrometer 5 days ago by warren 17 36,074 4
Refinery Watching 8 days ago by danbeavers 16 3,778 3
spectrometer-media 22 days ago by warren 2 2,089 0
How to make a homemade spectrophotometer about 1 month ago by Haripriya 3 605 0
ottawa about 1 month ago by Haripriya 1 150 1
Desktop Spectrometry Kit about 1 month ago by warren 34 25,664 4
Pesticide Detection Methods Development 2 months ago by silverhammer 25 4,714 6
Smartphone spectrometer 4 months ago by mathew 26 11,259 2
The Homebrew Sensing Project 4 months ago by warren 4 1,537 0
Spectrometer Curriculum 5 months ago by bicwood 25 6,005 3
Spectral Analysis Techniques 6 months ago by Markos 7 3,159 1
Spectrometry Sampling 7 months ago by warren 19 5,565 1
Spectral Workbench API 8 months ago by warren 28 5,625 2
How Kickstarter backers will use the spectrometer 10 months ago by Becki 4 5,198 0
Countertop Spectrometer 10 months ago by warren 7 3,008 0
Spectrometry Meetups 12 months ago by liz 3 1,642 1
Suggested Spectrometer Readings about 1 year ago by PeterDavidowicz 10 2,856 0
Spectral Challenge ideas about 1 year ago by philippg 18 3,334 3
Spectrometry health applications about 1 year ago by warren 10 3,110 1
Spectral Workbench exporting about 1 year ago by warren 6 2,942 0
DIYBIO Ideas and Applications about 1 year ago by briandegger 3 1,917 2
Spectral Challenge Teams over 1 year ago by warren 1 1,538 0
Spectral Challenge over 1 year ago by warren 30 5,300 1
Spectrometry FAQ over 1 year ago by warren 1 1,753 0
Spectral Workbench offline over 1 year ago by warren 4 4,351 0
Spectrometer preorders almost 2 years ago by warren 1 1,260 0

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