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Oil Testing Workshop

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Oil Testing Workshop

This post is a working document on the developing Oil Testing Kit Event Guide. I expect it to change and adapt as we refine our techniques. Please post comments and feedback.

Oil Testing Exploration Event

Resources Needed:

  • 4 poster boards
  • markers and pens
  • sticky notes
  • paper research notes
  • one computer per 1-2 people (can work in teams)
  • a power source that can support all your computers
  • large clean space for people to build their kits (long tables work well)
  • one Public Lab Oil Testing Kit (Spectrometer and Oil Testing Kit attachment) per team
  • 7 cuvettes per team
  • 1 uv laser per team
  • 1 set of gloves per person
  • 1 pair of protective glasses per person
  • small stickers to label your samples
  • swabs for the samples
  • small glass jars for solid sample prep - only if you have solid samples, nail polish bottle size is perfect
  • eye droppers, one for each sample
  • mineral oil
  • fluorescent light for spectrometer calibration
  • paper towels
  • a camera (to document)
  • newspaper (to protect your table)
  • bio jar for your used samples

Setting up the event:

1) Set your tables up near a power source that can be used by all the computers and line your table with the news paper.
2) Put up the poster board on the wall with the words “Notes, Questions and Ideas” and label them in order additionally with: Construct, Collect, Scan, Compare.
3) Put post-its, markers and pens on each table.
4) Put copies of the hand written research notes on each table for people to include more in depth information on what they explored.

Event Structure:

Introduce the Event:

1) Introduce yourself, why you are interested in this project and a little bit about Public Lab.
2) Emphasise that the tools, technology and event structure is currently being developed and that the outcomes of this event are to explore all three and make them better.
3) Identify that we will walk through how you would do this at each stage together.
4) Highlight the posters, markers and sticky pads available for people to put up their questions, comments, ideas and things they explored while they were there.
5) Introduce the concept of spectrometry for those who might be new to the idea. A useful explanation can be found on this page.

Walk through the stages of the process: (a more thorough walk through can be found on this page) The stages of the process include:

  • Construction, (estimated 1 hour)
  • Sample preparation, (estimated 30 minutes)
  • Scan your samples, (10 minutes per sample)
  • Compare your samples (30 minutes)
  • Dispose.

You will now begin the process of building the kit and running the tests. Encourage participants to keep notes on what was hard to do or understand, any questions they have or ideas. These can be written on the paper research notes or on the sticky notes and put on the poster. You will review these after the workshop.

Stage one: Construction

Tools you will need:

  • Spectrometer Kit per person or team,
  • Oil testing kit add on per person or team and
  • Computer.

Your attendees will need to build both the spectrometers and the oil testing add on pieces. These pieces will fit together and are your tools for oil testing.

1) Build the spectrometer: construction directions can be found on this wiki. Be sure to calibrate the spectrometer using a fluorescent light before adding on the oil testing piece.
2) Log in to Public Lab: To calibrate the spectrometer participants will need to use Make sure that each participant, or one person from each team has a Public Lab log-in and can access
3) Calibrate the Spectrometer. Calibration directions can be found on this wiki.
4) Build the Oil Testing add-on: instructions can be found on this wiki.

Stage two: Sample Preparation

Tools you will need:

  • pens,
  • cuvettes,
  • droppers,
  • protective eye gear,
  • gloves,
  • samples,
  • laser and
  • mineral oil.
  • if you’re working with hard samples you will also need swabs and sample jars.

Your sample preparation will depend on what state your sample is in (solid or liquid). For solid samples, here is a good walk through of sample preparation. You will then use your dropper to grab some of your dissolved samples to put into the testing cuvette. Be sure your sample is dissolved in the mineral oil enough to change the color of the oil. Once your sample is in this state, move on to liquid sample prep below.

For liquid sample prep you only need a few drops of your sample. Use a clean dropper to put enough drops in a cuvette to fill it just under half way. Put on your protective glasses on and shine it into the bottom half of the cuvette. If you can not see the laser beam in your sample, it is too dark and you will need to dilute it with the mineral oil until you can see the beam.

Label your sample in a way that you will be able to differentiate it later from others you scan.

At this point you can choose to prep all of your samples at once or begin scanning your first sample and return to sample prep with your others once this first one is uploaded on spectral workbench. Be sure to Keep your samples organized with labels Make sure that they do not turn fall over or turn upside down once they are in the cuvettes, they can leak.

Stage three: Scan your samples

Tools you will need:

  • samples in cuvettes,
  • computers,
  • lasers,
  • gloves and
  • protective eye gear.

The cuvettes fit into the small hole in the oil testing add on. The laser will fit into the holder adjacent to where the cuvette is placed. Once these are aligned you may begin to scan your samples. good directions for scanning samples can be found on this wiki.

Stage four: Compare your samples.

Tools you will need:

  • computer,
  • pens and
  • paper research notes

Once you have scanned your samples into spectral workbench, you can compare them to each other. There are good directions for walking through identifying unknown samples on this wiki.

Stage five: Dispose of your samples

Tools you will need:

  • bio jar,
  • gloves and
  • samples.

Once you are finished scanning your samples into spectralworkbench and are satisfied with your data set, you should dispose of your samples in a safe way. Some suggestions for disposal can be found on this wiki.


Go over what people are exploring, review with everyone what people have posted on the boards or wrote on their research notes. Allow people to take the notes with them if they want to do an online write up, but be sure to photograph them first just in case! Be sure to thank everyone for coming and invite them to your next event!

After your event:

Take pictures of the posters. Scan in the hand written research notes that you collected. Document what you explored in your event in a Public Lab Research Note include your pictures. Don’t forget to tag it with the tags: #spectrometer, #workshop, #oil-response-toolkit, #oil-testing-kit

Notes by people who have run this event as it has developed: