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!

I did this Help out by offering feedback! Browse other activities for "spectrometry"

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Hydrogen and Helium 50/50 part 2 @erincoulson6 12 months ago
CO2 part 2 @Amtwynn 12 months ago
co2 @brookepearce 12 months ago
Hydrogen and Helium 50/50 @erincoulson6 12 months ago
CO2 Lamp Spectrometry @PDiddy 12 months ago
Pure CO2 @Amtwynn 12 months ago
50/50 Hydrogen Helium light Spectroscopy @PDiddy 12 months ago
50% Hydrogen 50% Helium Light Spectroscopy @PDiddy 12 months ago
Hydrogen Helium 50/50 mix 2 @Amtwynn 12 months ago
Hydrogen Helium 50/50 mix @Amtwynn 12 months ago
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