Public Lab Research note

Scan and compare different gases (in discharge tubes, like neon) using a DIY spectrometer

by warren |

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A common classroom activity I remember is to scan different excited gases (safely inside glass tubes, the way a neon light works) using a spectrometer. Public Lab's [foldable spectrometry kit](/wiki/foldable-spec) makes this even more interactive -- you can make your own paper spectrometer with a DVD as a diffraction grating, and every student can make their own scans.

(Lead image by Wikipedia contributor Alchemist-hp - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 de, Link)

1. Construct a spectrometer

First, follow these instructions to make a spectrometer:

2. Calibrate it

(optional but really helpful!) Follow these steps to calibrate on :

3. Point it at a gas light source in a dark room

Use the button below to post your results, with a photo and a link to your spectrum at!

What kind of gas are you scanning? What are the spectral excitation lines you're looking for?

See these resources for next steps:

Are you a teacher?

If you're teaching a class using these resources, and have improvements or changes to suggest, please leave a comment below! You're welcome to use this activity or to modify and improve on it. We'd love your input!

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spectrometer education spectrometry neon classroom helium gas co2 foldable-spec science-fair gases curricula science-class

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