After a few years, we're returning to one of our oldest kits to update and improve it, building on lots of community-contributed ideas, improvements, and refinements. This page collects resources, questions and activities related to the design.
Already assembled your Papercraft Spectrometer? Visit SpectralWorkbench.org to get started on recording and analyzing spectra.
To get started assembling your spectrometer, try:
The first link also includes the design files for printing.
This introductory kit has been co-designed by hundreds of contributors as an entry point to Public Lab's collection of Do-It-Yourself spectrometry projects. Read about more on that page about what spectrometry is for, what we can do, and what its limitations are.
Our goals were:
- more rigid/robust
- printable on non-black paper
- easier to cut out with just scissors
- put more of the instructions on the object itself, like on the Antikythera Mechanism
Keep in mind -- this is the "introductory" design intended to onboard newcomers to the project, so we're trying to make it as easy as possible to build. Once you've made this, you're ready to move on to more complex projects, like scanning, sample preparation, and more robust designs.
We haven't gotten all the way there on every goal -- we'd hoped to make a version that required no glue -- just locking tabs -- but we just couldn't keep it small enough to be printed on a folded-in-half letter sheet. See this note, this, and some of these photos for my process of integrating all these changes, and see this page for some of the many many people who've contributed. See the previous version of this kit here.
|Calibrate your spectrometer in Spectral Workbench||verify||review-me||@warren||15m||easy||5 replications: Try it »|
|Build a papercraft spectrometer for your phone -- version 2.0||-||-||@warren||-||-||2 replications: Try it »|
|Preparing a DVD-R to act as a diffraction grating||-||-||@MrBumper||-||-||1 replications: Try it »|
|Make a narrow slit for a DIY spectrometer out of paper||-||-||@warren||-||-||0 replications: Try it »|
|Scan and compare different gases (in discharge tubes, like neon) using a DIY spectrometer||-||-||@warren||-||-||27 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.
This section is for questions about the Papercraft and Foldable Spectrometry Kits, specifically.
For questions about spectrometry in general, see this FAQ.
|I'm completely confused. I built the papercraft one, but then what do I do?||@mactac11||about 1 year ago||0||3|
|Split DVD – which part to use for spectrometer||@Nelari||almost 2 years ago||0||5|
|Can you give me measure for spectrum? Thank you.||@Skorex||almost 2 years ago||0||2|
|Can I get a file of numbers instead of a graph from the foldable spectrometer software?||@mountevans||about 3 years ago||1||4|
|Do I need to use a DVD-R? Will a CD-R work too?||@jordankc||about 3 years ago||1||2|
|Paper for printing||@G33K4P00RV4||about 3 years ago||0||5|
|Noise when Trying to Analyze Spectrum||@matthart610||over 3 years ago||0||1|
|Can I use a Diffraction Grating Slide Holographic 1000 lines/mm instead of the CD?||@oglezsa||over 3 years ago||1||3|
|What's an easy way to compare two liquid samples with a spectrometer?||@warren||over 3 years ago||1||8|
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.
Once you've gotten a solid footing with some of the above activities, try tackling one of these unsolved challenges to advance our collaborative work:
Have you added to your starter kit, improved it, redesigned it, or solved one of the above challenges? Show others how to take it to the next level by posting a build guide here:
|Tweaks to foldable mini-spectrometer design||build||proposal||@warren||1h||easy||1 builds: Try it »|
|3D printed mini spectrometer||-||-||@rthalman||-||-||1 builds: Try it »|
|Reduce light inside foldable PL spectrometer||-||-||@xose||-||-||0 builds: Try it »|
|Silhouette Cameo desktop paper cutter for prototyping||-||-||@warren||-||-||0 builds: Try it »|
|Silhouette cut Public Lab Mobile spectrometer v2||-||-||@briandegger||-||-||0 builds: Try it »|
Upgrades should include a parts list and a step-by-step construction guide with photo documentation. See an example.
Limitations and next steps
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 highly 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 less by the narrowness of the slit -- but measurements should be possible at better than 3 nanometers per pixel.