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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:


This is a list of community-generated guides for specific applications using your spectrometry setup (either a starter kit or a modded design). These activities can be categorized, and 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.

Note: If you are working on an urgent issue such as a threat to your or someone else’s health, please know that these techniques may not be ready for your use; it's possible that they never will be. Read more here

Activity grid

Purpose Category Status Author Time Difficulty Replications
Detection of Added Sugar in Red Wine Using Visual Light Spectroscopy - - @ygzstc - - 0 replications: Try it »
Detecting Pesticides in Organic and Conventional Raspberries using Open Source Instrumentation - - @silverhammer - hard 0 replications: Try it »
Flame testing metal salts observe - @kgradow1 3h medium 0 replications: Try it »
Build a papercraft spectrometer for your phone -- version 2.0 - - @warren - - 2 replications: Try it »
Multi parameter analysis using a DIY Spectrometer - - @Frikkie - - 0 replications: Try it »
Calibrate your spectrometer in Spectral Workbench verify review-me @warren 15m easy 5 replications: Try it »
Detection of Olive Oil Adulteration (with Peanut Oil) Using Visual Light Spectroscopy - - @ygzstc 10h medium 0 replications: Try it »
Tracking Plant Health Using Visible and Infrared Light -- Initial Experiences at an Arts High School - - @Travis - - 0 replications: Try it »
Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit 3.0 Assembly Instructions build complete @abdul 45min introductory 1 replications: Try it »
Preparing a DVD-R to act as a diffraction grating - - @MrBumper - - 1 replications: Try it »
PLab 3 Gain Correction - - @stoft - - 0 replications: Try it »
Assemble a DIY Papercraft Spectrometer build complete @abdul 10min introductory 3 replications: Try it »
Classroom Flame Spectroscopy - - @straylight - - 0 replications: Try it »
Using the Spectroscope for Analysis of Concentration (Beer's Law) test-limits - @straylight 3h medium 0 replications: Try it »
Water Quality Measurements with Optical Spectroscopy - under-development @philippg - - 0 replications: Try it »
Fat percent in milk - - @wagnerc4 - - 0 replications: Try it »
Testing the Oil Testing Kit: identifying a "somewhat unknown" sample - - @warren - - 0 replications: Try it »
Light Amber - - @cfastie - - 0 replications: Try it »
Lycopene - - @cfastie - - 0 replications: Try it »
Make a narrow slit for a DIY spectrometer out of paper - - @warren - - 0 replications: Try it »
Spectrometer 3.0 Cuvette Add-on - - @programmer1200 - - 0 replications: Try it »
DIY-spectrometer episode 2 (using LEGO) - - @TakeshiMatsumoto - - 0 replications: Try it »
Revised 3D printable mini spectrometer - - @B-winters - - 0 replications: Try it »
Fraunhofer - - @cfastie 30m easy 1 replications: Try it »
Scan and compare different gases (in discharge tubes, like neon) using a DIY spectrometer - - @warren - - 27 replications: Try it »
Draft: How to intergrate spectral data geometrically - - @madafe - - 0 replications: Try it »
WIP Raspberry Pi Spectrometry automation - - @jaksch - - 0 replications: Try it »
Importing spectra from NIST and to Spectral Workbench - - @warren - - 0 replications: Try it »
Draft: Collect a sample for laboratory analysis - - @warren - - 0 replications: Try it »
Setup for UV Testing with Specrtrometer - - @JoshMc - - 0 replications: Try it »
Filtered tap H2O vs unfiltered tap H2O spectral graph comparison - - @Suiris - - 0 replications: Try it »
Introduction to Spectrometry (& Building a Spectrometer!) Lesson - - @mimiss - - 0 replications: Try it »
Attempt at Quantitative Analysis for Desktop Spectrometer - - @ben.alley43 - - 0 replications: Try it »
See the Fraunhofer absorption lines in sunlight verify draft @warren 1h easy 4 replications: Try it »
Noise by colour - - @viechdokter - - 0 replications: Try it »
Stress-testing the Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit test-limits in-progress @warren 1h medium 0 replications: Try it »
Show more

Add an activity  or request an activity guide you don't see listed

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Add your own activity Request an activity guide

Guides should include a materials list and a step-by-step construction guide with photo documentation. Learn what makes a good activity here.


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 »
Stability upgrade mockup for PLab Spectrometer 3.0 build review-me @stoft 1h easy 1 builds: Try it »
OTK Proto3 - - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
PLab 3 Spectrometer Upgrade Prototype - - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
Constructing a Desktop Spectrometer with no Wood, and no Velcro build in-progress @abdul 1h easy 0 builds: Try it »
Some Suggestions for Spectrometer v3.0 and Oil Testing Kit (OTK) Attachment - - @ygzstc - - 0 builds: Try it »
Prototype of easy-to-build rigid spectrometer housing - under-development @warren 3h easy 0 builds: Try it »
Reduce light inside foldable PL spectrometer - - @xose - - 0 builds: Try it »
3D printed mini spectrometer - - @rthalman - - 1 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 »
How to do upgrade Desktop Spectrometer Kit 2.0 to the version 3.0 - in-progress @pablo - - 0 builds: Try it »
Ongoing design of compact cuvette frame - under-development @warren 5h medium 0 builds: Try it »
Spectrometer Light Tight Cover Build build - @stef 30m easy 0 builds: Try it »
Laser-cut the Desktop Spectrometry Kit v3 box - - @warren - - 0 builds: Try it »
PLab-3 Proto Slit Upgrade - - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
All Paper-n-Tape Mock-Up Upgrade of PLab 3 Spectrometer build - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
Build Instructions For The DH 4.0 v4 Spectrometer - - @dhaffnersr - - 0 builds: Try it »
A more compact spectrometer - - @cristoforetti - - 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 »
Show more

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.

Desktop Spectrometry Kit v3

Our most recent “reference design”, incorporating some community improvements while balancing low cost and relative ease of construction.

Build one Buy one

Foldable Mini-Spectrometer

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.

Build one Buy one

What's spectrometry?

Colored light is often a blend of different colors. A spectrometer is a device which splits those colors apart, like a prism, and measures the strength of each color. A typical output of a spectrometer looks like this spectrum of the daytime sky, with the actual light spectrum at the top and the graph of wavelength (horizontal axis, in nanometers of wavelength) and intensity (vertical axis) below:


Needed: overview of spectra, calibration, units, comparison, and fluorescence/absorption. Please edit this page or link to a resource, potentially the Wikipedia page, although that's quite full of technical jargon.


Spectral data can be analyzed with to create spectra plots, find centers of emissions plots, and find similar spectra. Data also can be exported in various formats (JSON, CSV, XML) for further analysis and visualization.

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:

Diagram needed here!

[ 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ask a question about spectrometry

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
what are the best light sensors? @omarion 5 months ago 5
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 7 months 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 7 months ago 1
How do I identify the base polymers in an unknown plastic for recycling? @profpearce 9 months ago 7
Can you help us with calibrating our spectrometer? @KristinaTamara 9 months ago 7
Split DVD – which part to use for spectrometer @Nelari 9 months ago 5
Can you give me measure for spectrum? Thank you. @Skorex 10 months ago 3
What causes spectrum distortion? @nathanathan about 1 year ago 1
How can I connect my gopro to SpectralWorkbench software? Is there other open software that would? @CD3000 about 1 year ago 3
UV measurements @exekutive over 1 year ago 5
[SOLVED] Why is my image of the spectrum extremely "slim"? DVD+RW is not good as a diffraction grating! @jaksch over 1 year ago 7
How can I get the absorption spectra once I have calibrated my spectrometer data? @amenzel8 over 1 year ago 1
Most accurate spectrographs? @jneish over 1 year ago 1
Best light source for spectrometer? @jneish over 1 year ago 2
How to measure nutrient concetration in hydroponic system? @Aleksi12358 over 1 year ago 14
Dark images, can't get spectrometer to work @Tomas0413 over 1 year ago 55
Can I use a DVD or does it have to be a DVD-R ? @tmanmerlin over 1 year ago 14
could anyone tell me if it is possible to use the homemade spectrometer to analyze a sample of metal? @gabrielxp46 almost 2 years ago 3
How do the new webcam @stinge_nz almost 2 years ago 14
Which Public Lab kit is best for testing the impact of different camera settings? @MaggPi almost 2 years ago 3
Do a DVD is provided with the LEGO kit ? ty ! @adamsanta almost 2 years ago 1
can a spectrometer be used to measure color of water ? @thangvu almost 2 years ago 16
Quantitative analysis of wood moisture @MarcioPamplona almost 2 years ago 9
How do I make sure the "YELLOW LINE" threshold is the same for each measurement with the spectormeter (trying to maintain consistent conditions for experiments across multiple days) @Dr_Z almost 2 years ago 3
Lego Spectrometer suitable for studying sunlight? @jsbonillam almost 2 years ago 12
Possible sources of more spectrometer information @Ag8n about 2 years ago 3
Can I get a file of numbers instead of a graph from the foldable spectrometer software? @mountevans about 2 years ago 4
How to interpret the results? @amir129 about 2 years ago 10
Preferred slit size? @asnow about 2 years ago 6
Do I need to use a DVD-R? Will a CD-R work too? @jordankc about 2 years ago 2
Camera that would detect at 1064nm? @jpschaaf about 2 years ago 2
Whats the detection limit of the Desktop Spectrometry kit? @partyparrot4eva about 2 years ago 3
Quantifying Phytonutrients using a Spectrometer, Possible? @zayas about 2 years ago 7
I want to know a method to quantify milk proteins using the foldable mini spectrometer, Is this possible? @julsmill about 2 years ago 3
How can we detect contaminants in water samples with a DIY spectrometer using reagents? @warren about 2 years ago 1
Can a DIY spectrometer be used to measure water turbidity? @warren about 2 years ago 8
Noise when Trying to Analyze Spectrum @matthart610 about 2 years ago 1
Does anyone know what image processing spectral workbench does to find intensity at wavelength/ where to find the coding for that? @Reallygeek about 2 years ago 10
Does the Beer Lambert law apply to the opacity of reagents? @warren about 2 years ago 4
Would the desktop spectrometry kit work for measuring fluorescent responses? @ICSK about 2 years ago 7
Can I use a Diffraction Grating Slide Holographic 1000 lines/mm instead of the CD? @oglezsa over 2 years ago 3
How to connect a creative cam notebook with a smartphone? @KushalKC over 2 years ago 2
What's an easy way to compare two liquid samples with a spectrometer? @warren over 2 years ago 8
Calibaration or switching scale? @jayjay70 over 2 years ago 1
Spectrometry: degrees between gratings or camera and baseline @obisidian over 2 years ago 1
How To Make Time Lapse Spectrometer @LightWaveResearch8000 over 2 years ago 2
Assembly completed but the camera doesn't work. @1987123 over 2 years ago 4
Desktop Spectrometry Kit to arduino? @jjoll over 2 years ago 5
Any way to improve on the DVD grating? @dsvilko over 2 years ago 2
Can a Spectrometer be used to detect material type? @jjoll over 2 years ago 3
Can this camera be suitable to make a spectrometer v3.0? @osetroff over 2 years ago 3
Alternative spectrometry sample cells for Hach DR900 @fieldlab almost 3 years ago 0
Desktop Spectrometer Kit Availablility @bicwood almost 3 years ago 3
How do I... @Mekis almost 3 years ago 1
Testing Water For Specific Polluting Compounds @rajanzaveri almost 3 years ago 2
Paper size for stiff matte black card insert @Vman almost 3 years ago 1
making a slit in spectrometer @vafa almost 3 years ago 1
JDEPC-OV05 camera intelligent exposure @tim_spec almost 3 years ago 5
what causes spectral colors to be reversed? @vgoebel about 3 years ago 2
Fraunhofer Lines at higher resolutions? @stef about 3 years ago 2
How to get spectral data in excel or other formats @suha about 3 years ago 4
Ambient/Light Bulb Testing @idev247 about 3 years ago 11
Photoreactive purple dye: can it block wavelengths longer than green? @axman about 3 years ago 2
Identify Plastic Material Using Infrared Imaging @shaikhgous over 3 years ago 1
Is the webcam from spectrometer v2.0 suitable for the upgrade to 3.0? @pablo over 3 years ago 16
Is there an iPhone app for foldable spectrometer? @CanfieldC over 3 years ago 4
Error on calibrating uploaded spectrum @sarahcm over 3 years ago 9
How do you use infrared light with the DIY Public Lab Spectrometer 3.0? @haribhimaraju over 3 years ago 2
how to delete my spectra on Spectral Workbench @redleon over 3 years ago 1
What are good containers to use for spectrometry samples? @warren over 3 years ago 1
Can I upgrade a DIY spectrometer with a Raspberry Pi camera? @warren over 3 years ago 10
What sensor would I need to detect spectra of small organisms (virtus, bacteria etc) @fouadalnoor over 3 years ago 4
How can I reduce ambient light inside the Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit? @warren over 3 years ago 8
What mechanical specs can and should PLab spectrometers meet? @stoft over 3 years ago 19
Arc Emissions- What electrodes to use? @m3sca1 over 3 years ago 2
Is there a simple and reliable way to test the rigidity of the spectrometer? @bsugar over 3 years ago 6
How can a spectrometer's wavelength resolution be measured? @warren over 3 years ago 1
Can i upload csv files on spectralworkbench for calibration and other purposes? @shubham over 3 years ago 1
How to neutralize/remove the source's spectra to obtain absorption spectra? @shubham over 3 years ago 12
Spectrometer from a drone @sylvainbonhommeau over 3 years ago 7
Question: Can DIY-spectrometer be used for analysis of soil @interestedperson_ha over 3 years ago 7
Question: Using a webcam with a image resolution of 1920x1020 @seko over 3 years ago 1
Mini spectrophotometer - how does this deviate from the Beer-Lambert law? @FoxClass over 3 years ago 9
How to rename a set on Spectral Workbench? @AndrewJamesLaplante over 3 years ago 4
Question: How do I get the calibration user interface? @PeterDH almost 4 years ago 3
Question: Why average? And what happens to the second Green? @viechdokter almost 4 years ago 10
Question: Calibration... @Georgi almost 4 years ago 2
Question: Focus on mobile phone @clownfish almost 4 years ago 1
Question: I want to do citizen bee science @FortunaWolf almost 4 years ago 7
Question: ccd camera on metascop @leanr almost 4 years ago 7
Getting the spectrometer to work with a Raspberry Pi? @anjohn12 almost 4 years ago 6
Question: How to I convert the spectrum from the webcam to a spectral power density graph. @cjtiaan almost 4 years ago 5
Question: RE: Desktop Spectrometry Kit @Airship7 almost 4 years ago 0
Question: Desktop Spectrometry Kit @clmchenr over 4 years ago 3
Question: Can signal be exported from Spectral Workbench? @clmchenr over 4 years ago 1
Question: Range @Gasam over 4 years ago 1
Question: IR filter in the camera @Ripingill almost 5 years ago 6
Question: the camera look only white and dont have´s teh camera bad? @masolaric over 5 years ago 4
Question: Will the desk top spectrometer sense wear metals in motor oil? @upson over 5 years ago 1
Sample container search @warren over 5 years ago 12
Question: More of a comment, really @bowlerhatman over 5 years ago 8
Accuracy of assembled Desktop Spectrometry kit? @WhiteRabbit over 5 years ago 8
Question: Can the Public Labs Desktop Spectrometer analyze light from a patch of grass? @WhiteRabbit over 5 years ago 5
Question: any low light settings for web cam used in desktop spectrometry kit? @Henry0815 over 5 years ago 7
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Ask a question  or help answer future questions on this topic

Note our previous Frequently Asked Questions page, which can be found here » -- please help port these into the new system, here!