Public Lab Wiki documentation


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The Public Lab spectrometry project is an open source community effort to develop low-cost spectrometers for a range of purposes. All open spectrometry hardware and software efforts are welcome here!

Join in by:

  • Reading about goals and asking great questions
  • Building a basic spectrometer using one of our starter kits
  • Trying (and critiquing) our community-made how-to guides
  • Posting your own how-to guides and mods
  • Building on others’ work; hack and remix the kits to refine and expand them
  • Submit your improvements for inclusion in an upcoming starter kit release or add-on
  • Serving on a Research Review Group for a 3 month period


This is a list of community-generated guides for specific applications using your spectrometry setup (either a starter kit or a modded design). Some may be more reproduced -- or reproducible -- than others. Try them out to build your skills, and help improve them by leaving comments. Together, we can repeat and refine the activities into experiments.

Purpose Category (?) Status (?) Author Time Difficulty (?) Replications (?) Goal
Wavelength-calibrate with a Compact Fluorescent Blub (CFL) category status @warren 10 m - 150 replications Try It X replications
Scan sunlight to see Fraunhofer lines category status @cfastie 10 m - 80 replications X replications
Compare different concentrations in a liquid sample (Beer’s Law, absorption) category status @straylight 4 h easy 0 replications Try It X replications
Compare milk fat percentages category status @wagnerc4 easy 0 replications Try It X replications X reviews
Compare blends of olive and peanut oil category status @ygstc 3 h moderate 0 replications Try It X replications
Extract samples (tomato) with ethanol category status @cfastie 2 h easy 0 replications Try It X replications | X reviews
Detect presence of sugar in beverages (wine) category status @ygstc 2 hr easy 0 replications Try It X replications
Oil testing category status @gretchengehrke 2 h moderate 20 replications Try It X replications
(draft) Determine presence of organophosphate or carbamate pesticides category status @silverhammer 5 hr difficult 0 replications Try It X replications
(draft) Collect and concentrate oil sheen category status @matej 6 h difficult 1 replication Try It X replications
(draft) Flame emission spectra of metal salts category status @kgradow1 3 h medium 0 replications Try it X replications
(requested) Determine effects of weathering on oil samples category status - - difficult - -

Add your guide here Request a guide

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


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:

Purpose Category Status Author Time Difficulty Builds
Ebert - - @cfastie - - 0 builds: Try it »
OTK Proto3 - - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
Stability upgrade mockup for PLab Spectrometer 3.0 build review-me @stoft 1h easy 1 builds: Try it »
PLab 3 Spectrometer Upgrade Prototype - - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
Some Suggestions for Spectrometer v3.0 and Oil Testing Kit (OTK) Attachment - - @ygzstc - - 0 builds: Try it »
3D printed mini spectrometer - - @rthalman - - 1 builds: Try it »
Prototype of easy-to-build rigid spectrometer housing - under-development @warren 3h easy 0 builds: Try it »
Constructing a Desktop Spectrometer with no Wood, and no Velcro build in-progress @abdul 1h easy 0 builds: Try it »
Reduce light inside foldable PL spectrometer - - @xose - - 0 builds: Try it »
Introducing a new spectrometer design - "The Spectrotube" - - @El_Mar - - 0 builds: Try it »
Reduce interior reflections in your spectrometer with black ink build review-me @warren 10m easy 2 builds: Try it »
Camera Focus IR Filter Removal - - @stef - - 0 builds: Try it »
Ongoing design of compact cuvette frame - under-development @warren 5h medium 0 builds: Try it »
All Paper-n-Tape Mock-Up Upgrade of PLab 3 Spectrometer build - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
PLab-3 Proto Slit Upgrade - - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
Spectrometer Light Tight Cover Build build - @stef 30m easy 0 builds: Try it »
How to do upgrade Desktop Spectrometer Kit 2.0 to the version 3.0 - in-progress @pablo - - 0 builds: Try it »
Laser-cut the Desktop Spectrometry Kit v3 box - - @warren - - 0 builds: Try it »
Printable 3D Spectometer - - @mdiego2798 - - 1 builds: Try it »
A more compact spectrometer - - @cristoforetti - - 0 builds: Try it »
Build Instructions For The DH 4.0 v4 Spectrometer - - @dhaffnersr - - 0 builds: Try it »
Spectrometer 3.0 Upgrades - - @programmer1200 - - 0 builds: Try it »
An evolution of the Spectrometer for 3D printing - - @ajy00 - - 0 builds: Try it »

Add your upgrade guide here Request or propose an upgrade

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


There’s a lot going on in open source spectrometry -- if you’ve developed another open source design you’d like to show others how to construct, post it here!

Starter Kits

Public Lab’s Kits initiative offers several starter kits, including many of the basic components, and instructions for constructing a basic visible light spectrometer. The point of the kits is to provide a shared reference design for building experimental setups onto.

  • The Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit (now at version 3.0), is our most recent “reference design” incorporating some community improvements while balancing low cost and relative ease of construction. We have not yet met all our intended goals for this design, which is still at an exploratory phase: build on this design by adding a sample holder, attaching a light, or incorporating it into an experiment.

Visit the Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit version 3.0 page

  • New to spectrometry? You might like to try the Papercraft Spectrometry Starter Kit, a $10 foldable 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 an “introductory” or educational kit.

Visit the Papercraft Spectrometry Starter Kit page

Using spectral data

Overview of spectra, calibration, units, comparison, and fluorescence/absorption/… Using the spectrometer with the interface, spectral data is recorded, which includes qualitative light intensity at specific wavelengths of light. Data is presented visually in a plot with light intensity as a function of wavelength, ranging from 400 to 700 nm. By creating “sets” of multiple spectra, you can visually assess the similarities and differences between the spectra, although it cannot be used to compare the color of substances.


Same, remix, or expansion of existing docs.
Spectral data can be analyzed with to create spectra plots, find centers of emissions plots, and find similar spectra. Data also can be exported to graphing programs such as Plotly, Gephi, or MatLab for further analysis and visualization.

Frequently Asked Questions

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
Can I measure CSF turbidity in real time? @Cheesealmighty about 1 year ago 3
Can DIY spectrometers be useful for pH determination and/or dissolved organic carbon of a water solution? @alejobonifacio over 1 year ago 19
¿como se que mi espectro de una solución sigue la ley de beer? @edithcaballero19t about 2 years ago 1
Webinar on using hyperspectral imaging in the recycling industry @amirberAgain over 2 years ago 2
Substitute diffraction grating for DVD? @msuphysicsformcb over 2 years ago 4
can i use a spectrometer to sense food wastes and use an arduino to make it light a led accordingly? @tasneim3mon3em almost 3 years ago 1
Do you have any tips for splicing DVD-Rs for spectrometer builds? @mimiss almost 3 years ago 4
Measuring UV-C Sources @jkenny23 about 3 years ago 4
What light sources might I use to calibrate my spectrometer if I don’t have a CFL available? @mimiss about 3 years ago 8
Problem whit workbench spectra. Unable to manipulate(work) whit any image @damian_orovitz about 3 years ago 1
How can I get the menu to calibrate SpectralWorkbench? @experimentierwerkstatt_dm about 3 years ago 9
what are the best light sensors? @omarion over 3 years ago 3
Aside from a wavelength calibration, has there been any discussion on doing some sort of intensity calibration to allow measurement of spectral irradiance? @Light_Guy60 almost 4 years ago 1
I just gotten my newly purchased Infragram Pi Camera, my pi.local is blank and pi.local/Cam keeps popping up message "Error in RaspiMJPEG" hence I do not get any live video feed. Anyone can help? @willieong almost 4 years ago 1
How do I identify the base polymers in an unknown plastic for recycling? @profpearce about 4 years ago 7
Can you help us with calibrating our spectrometer? @KristinaTamara about 4 years ago 7
Split DVD – which part to use for spectrometer @Nelari about 4 years ago 4
Can you give me measure for spectrum? Thank you. @Skorex about 4 years ago 2
What causes spectrum distortion? @nathanathan over 4 years ago 1
How can I connect my gopro to SpectralWorkbench software? Is there other open software that would? @CD3000 over 4 years ago 3
UV measurements @exekutive over 4 years ago 5
[SOLVED] Why is my image of the spectrum extremely "slim"? DVD+RW is not good as a diffraction grating! @jaksch almost 5 years ago 6
How can I get the absorption spectra once I have calibrated my spectrometer data? @amenzel8 almost 5 years ago 1
Most accurate spectrographs? @jneish almost 5 years ago 1

Ask a question about spectrometry

How does this compare to a lab instrument?

The Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit is only one part in an experimental setup, and the following shows where it fits in an overall diagram of a lab spectrometric setup:

[ Analysis computer ] [ Spectrometer ] = || [ Sample container ] || = [ Light source ]

[ Extraction system ] [ Sample storage ] [ Sample collection equipment ]

There are many, many different types of spectrometry and spectrometers -- many don’t even measure light. Even among those that do, some detect light in the ultraviolet range, and others in the infrared range of light.

The range of Public Lab spectrometers depends on the range of the commercially available cameras we attach them to (~400-700 nanometer wavelengths). A commercially available product with a slightly wider range (from 335 to 1000 nanometers) is available from Cole Parmer.