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Foldable Spectrometry Starter Kit

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New to spectrometry? On a budget? Looking for something to introduce a group to spectrometry? You might like to try the Papercraft Spectrometry Starter Kit, a simple foldable paper spectrometer which you can attach to a smartphone or webcam. It’s made of paper to reduce cost and complexity, and is mainly intended as a low cost “introductory” or educational kit.

Get a kit now

You can use the PDF in the assembly instructions below or get a kit from the Public Lab store:

Get a kit

Update: There's an updated version of this design available at Papercraft Spectrometry Kit


The resolution and stability (ability to hold a wavelength calibration) of the spectrometer depend on how carefully you construct and store it. This kit is designed to be easy to assemble, and is not focused on precision or consistent measurements; it’s made of paper, and will crush if you put it in your pocket -- but it can be made out of easy-to-find materials and assembled in ~15 minutes.

For a more rigid, robust device intended for more advanced work, check out the Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit.

To improve it, see the related upgrades and feel free to post your own improvements there.

Most digital cameras can record light in the visible range, ~400-700 nanometers, so this determines the range of your device. The resolution is mainly limited by the resolution of the camera (and its focus!) and by the narrowness of the slit -- but measurements should be possible at better than 3 nanometers per pixel. See limitations and goals for more.


Purpose Category Status Author Time Difficulty Replications
Build a papercraft spectrometer for your phone -- version 2.0 - - @warren - - 2 replications: Try it »
Calibrate your spectrometer in Spectral Workbench verify review-me @warren 15m easy 5 replications: Try it »
Assemble a DIY Papercraft Spectrometer build complete @abdul 10min introductory 3 replications: Try it »
Reduce light inside foldable PL spectrometer - - @xose - - 0 replications: Try it »
Scan and compare different gases (in discharge tubes, like neon) using a DIY spectrometer - - @warren - - 27 replications: Try it »
Make a narrow slit for a DIY spectrometer out of paper - - @warren - - 0 replications: Try it »
See the Fraunhofer absorption lines in sunlight verify draft @warren 1h easy 4 replications: Try it »
Draft: Find the concentration of a liquid with a DIY spectrometer - - @warren - - 0 replications: Try it »

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Get involved in the next revision

Have you made improvements to the kit? Share them as an upgrade and we may get in touch to integrate your changes into the kit itself.


Have you added to your starter kit, improved it, or redesigned it? Show others how to take it to the next level by posting a build guide here:

Add your upgrade guide here Request or propose an upgrade

Upgrades should include a parts list and a step-by-step construction guide with photo documentation. See an example.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section is for questions about the Foldable Spectrometer Starter Kit, specifically.

For questions about spectrometry in general, see this FAQ.

Ask a question about the foldable spectrometer

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
I'm completely confused. I built the papercraft one, but then what do I do? @mactac11 about 4 years ago 1
Split DVD – which part to use for spectrometer @Nelari about 5 years ago 4
Can you give me measure for spectrum? Thank you. @Skorex about 5 years ago 2
Can I get a file of numbers instead of a graph from the foldable spectrometer software? @mountevans over 6 years ago 4
Do I need to use a DVD-R? Will a CD-R work too? @jordankc over 6 years ago 2
Paper for printing @G33K4P00RV4 over 6 years ago 5
Noise when Trying to Analyze Spectrum @matthart610 over 6 years ago 1
Can I use a Diffraction Grating Slide Holographic 1000 lines/mm instead of the CD? @oglezsa over 6 years ago 3
What's an easy way to compare two liquid samples with a spectrometer? @warren over 6 years ago 7

Plans, materials, and what it takes to make one:

mini fold up spectrometer as vector


See this activity for how to assemble your kit.

Limitations and Goals

This starter kit is a great way to begin learning about spectroscopy by building a simple one, but is not meant for quantitative research. Once you’ve mastered it, you can improve it with some of the hardware mods listed here, or to take it to the next level, see the Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit for a more robust platform to build on.

Though it is specifically designed to be an “introductory” kit, there are a number of goals to work towards, and limitations which you can help to overcome in the current design. Intro-level kits play an important role in helping people build the skills they need to join in the project and improve these methods -- in building a large collaborative community around this project.

Help improve it

Again, this is a collaboratively designed kit -- help make it better! Some of the goals and challenges we’re still working on with this kit include:

  • the alignment between the foldable spectrometer and a smartphone or webcam is hard to keep consistent with soft materials like paper
  • assembly relies on careful gluing or taping -- could we make a glue-less tab-based version that’s still light tight?
  • the film-printed slit in the starter kit is really nice, but can be hard for someone to make on their own -- some tips on making your own slits would be helpful
  • a wider spectrometer would make a wider spectrum, which would be easier to capture a picture of
  • comparing spectra with different light sources, or between different devices, is not well explored