The PLOTS Spectrometer is a tool we've been developing at RISD's Environmental Justice research group with student Colin Frazer. A spectrometer is a tool for identifying the unique patterns of light refracted, reflected or emitted from an object, like a fingerprint. Using spectrometer you can collect that pattern of light and use it to identify what a substance is made of. We hope to use spectrometry to identify harmful gases emitted during the course of oil and gas production. Our spectrometer consists of a cardboard box, a broken CD, and a digital camera. The cardboard box or tube collects the light from an object. The broken CD splits that light into a rainbow like spectrum. The digital camera photographs that spectrum so we can analyze it using our online tools.
We've created an online analysis tool to upload your spectrometer photos for interpretation. All of this is very prototoype-stage, and we haven't yet identified a material based on the spectra it generates.