Update: pre-order a spectrometer kit (including one which attaches to your mobile phone) now at the Breadpig Store

##Purpose## Chemists use [expensive tools called spectrometers](/notes/warren/11-30-2011/visible-light-spectrometer-2660-4-7nm-bandwidth) (there are several kinds) to analyze unknown solid or liquid samples. We are working on a cheap version which we hope to use **to identify oil contamination in water and soil**, as well as a range of other possible toxins. Spectrometers can also be used to identify species of plants or crop diseases, assess plumes from smokestacks, and have many other applications. Spectrometry diagram spectrum ###What's spectrometry?### What we perceive as a single color consists of multiple blended colors- just as green paint can be made from mixing yellow and blue paint. A spectrometer is a device that splits light into the various colors it is composed of, which we otherwise cannot distinguish with the naked eye. By viewing a substance through a spectrometer, one can distinguish the exact mixture of colors, which correspond to specific wavelengths of light, that make up the perceived color of the sample. Spectrometer interior ##Make a spectrometer##
The PLOTS spectrometer is a Do-it-Yourself tool made from simple materials: * 4 1/8" x 8 3/8" stiff black card paper * a clean DVD-R * a webcam * velcro, dark tape, a box cutter/x-acto knife The DVD's tightly packed grooves act as a diffraction grating -- basically a prism. When light enters, the different wavelengths of light are bent to different degrees, forming a rainbow -- a spectrum. ###[Video spectrometer construction »](/wiki/video-spectrometer-construction)### The above link offers step-by-step instructions on making your own spectrometer. There is also a short [tutorial on how to take out the filter on the webcam](http://publiclaboratory.org/wiki/webcam-filter-removal) (optional). This design is released under the CERN Open Hardware License 1.1 (read agreement here). It features: * around 400-900 nanometer range, maybe wider (what you can see with the naked eye, plus some infrared) * 5-10 nm spectral resolution * 20-30 samples per second * ~ $10 in materials * < 1 hour construction time * [open-source software](/wiki/spectral-workbench) Though these specs look pretty good, they still need to be compared rigorously with a traditional laboratory spectrometer. Are you interested in trying it? ##Using your spectrometer## As we ship to the different Kickstarter backers, we'll post notes on how people plan to use their spectrometer: * [$10 backers: mini-foldable spectrometer](http://publiclaboratory.org/notes/shannon/12-12-2012/ideas-10-kickstarter-backers-how-they-will-use-spectrometer) * [$100 backers: mini-foldable, desktop and mobile](http://publiclaboratory.org/notes/shannon/12-15-2012/ideas-100-kickstarter-backers-how-they-will-use-spectrometer) * [$200 and $400 backers: mini-foldable, desktop, countertop and mobile ($400) and desktop 6-pack for $200 backers](http://publiclaboratory.org/notes/shannon/12-13-2012/ideas-400-and-200-kickstarter-backers-how-they-will-use-spectrometer) One group of toxins common to fossil fuel contamination are PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are generally carcinogenic. We're trying to develop a step-by-step experimental procedure to prepare a soil or water sample, shine a full-spectrum light (like a halogen lamp) through it, and detect the missing wavelengths. If you're interested, please chip in to develop and document a consistent way to read samples here: ###[Spectrometer usage »](/wiki/spectral-workbench-usage)### We're also putting together a list of research (some of it our own) to draw upon in developing spectral analysis techniques for anything from soil to grapes to coffee: ###[Spectral Analysis »](/wiki/spectral-analysis)### Spectral Workbench ###Online spectral analysis### Along with the physical tool itself, the PLOTS team has also developed a [software suite](/wiki/spectral-workbench) and [online spectrum sharing website](https://spectralworkbench.org) which allows anyone to upload their data and work with others to try to interpret it. These tools are early prototypes and we're looking for help developing them. Finally, a FAQ with some insights about actually *using* your spectrometer can be found here: [Spectrometer FAQ](http://www.publiclaboratory.org/wiki/spectrometer-faq) ##Goals## This is an early-stage, speculative project, but our goals include: * Identify a contaminant in a sample, like a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon -- i.e. [naphthalene, anthracene or tetracene](http://publiclaboratory.org/notes/warren/8-5-2011/uv-visible-spectral-features-benzine-and-some-pahs). Tetracene has absorption bands well into the visible range. * Identify a plant species by its spectrum. (see [this helpful paper by Zomer et al](https://publiclab.org/sites/default/files/Zomer_2009.PDF)) Or perhaps a mineral, using the [ASTER spectral library](http://archive.publiclaboratory.org/aster-spectral-library/) * Try to identify something in a smokestack plume, like a refinery plume ###Older designs### Several [older designs](/wiki/tube-spectrometer) have been documented on this site. Guides have been made showing you how to make some of these; they include: * [plots-spectrometer-guide-small.pdf](http://www.publiclaboratory.org/sites/default/files/plots-spectrometer-guide-small.pdf) - by the PLOTS team for our workshop at the Whitney Museum * [Make a Spectrometer.pdf](http://www.publiclaboratory.org/sites/default/files/Make%20a%20Spectrometer.pdf) - by Alex McCarthy * [partsandcrafts-spectrometer-guide.pdf](http://archive.publiclaboratory.org/download/partsandcrafts-spectrometer-guide.pdf) - by [Parts and Crafts](http://partsandcrafts.org/) (21mb, print quality)