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:


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 Olive Oil Adulteration (with Peanut Oil) Using Visual Light Spectroscopy - - @ygzstc - - 0 replications: Try it »
Detection of Added Sugar in Red Wine Using Visual Light Spectroscopy - - @ygzstc - - 0 replications: Try it »
Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit 3.0 Assembly Instructions build complete @abdul 45min introductory 0 replications: Try it »
Detecting Pesticides in Organic and Conventional Raspberries using Open Source Instrumentation - - @silverhammer - - 0 replications: Try it »
Flame testing metal salts observe - @kgradow1 3h medium 0 replications: Try it »
Calibrate your spectrometer in Spectral Workbench verify review-me @warren 15m easy 3 replications: Try it »
PLab 3 Gain Correction - - @stoft - - 0 replications: Try it »
Tracking Plant Health Using Visible and Infrared Light -- Initial Experiences at an Arts High School - - @Travis - - 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 »
Lycopene - - @cfastie - - 0 replications: Try it »
Foldable Paper Spectrometer Assembly Instructions build complete @abdul 10min introductory 0 replications: Try it »
Fraunhofer - - @cfastie 30m easy 1 replications: Try it »
Importing spectra from NIST and to Spectral Workbench - - @warren - - 0 replications: Try it »
Using the Spectroscope for Analysis of Concentration (Beer's Law) test-limits - @straylight 3h medium 0 replications: Try it »
Classroom Flame Spectroscopy - - @straylight - - 0 replications: Try it »
See the Fraunhofer absorption lines in sunlight verify draft @warren 1h easy 0 replications: Try it »
Stress-testing the Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit test-limits in-progress @warren 1h medium 0 replications: Try it »

Add an activity Request an activity guide

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:

Title Status Author Time Difficulty Builds
Stability upgrade mockup for PLab Spectrometer 3.0 review-me @stoft 1h easy 1 builds: Try it »
OTK Proto3 - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
Ebert - @cfastie - - 0 builds: Try it »
Constructing a Desktop Spectrometer with no Wood, and no Velcro 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 »
PLab 3 Spectrometer Upgrade Prototype - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
Reduce light inside foldable PL spectrometer - @xose - - 0 builds: Try it »
Tweaks to foldable mini-spectrometer design proposal @warren 1h easy 0 builds: Try it »
Camera Focus IR Filter Removal - @stef - - 0 builds: Try it »
Reduce interior reflections in your spectrometer with black ink review-me @warren 10m easy 1 builds: Try it »
Prototype of easy-to-build rigid spectrometer housing under-development @warren 3h easy 0 builds: Try it »
Spectrometer Light Tight Cover Build - @stef 30m easy 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 - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
PLab-3 Proto Slit Upgrade - @stoft - - 0 builds: Try it »
Build Instructions For The DH 4.0 v4 Spectrometer review-me @dhaffnersr 3h medium 0 builds: Try it »
Build Instructions For The DH 4.0 v4 Spectrometer in-progress @dhaffnersr 3h medium 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 »

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:



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
Ambient/Light Bulb Testing @idev247 about 1 month ago
Photoreactive purple dye: can it block wavelengths longer than green? @axman about 1 month ago
Identify Plastic Material Using Infrared Imaging @shaikhgous about 1 month ago
Is the webcam from spectrometer v2.0 suitable for the upgrade to 3.0? @pablo 2 months ago
Is there an iPhone app for foldable spectrometer? @CanfieldC 3 months ago
Error on calibrating uploaded spectrum @sarahcm 3 months ago
How do you use infrared light with the DIY Public Lab Spectrometer 3.0? @haribhimaraju 3 months ago
how to delete my spectra on Spectral Workbench @redleon 3 months ago
What are good containers to use for spectrometry samples? @warren 4 months ago
Can I upgrade a DIY spectrometer with a Raspberry Pi camera? @warren 4 months ago
How can I reduce ambient light inside the Desktop Spectrometry Starter Kit? @warren 4 months ago
What mechanical specs can and should PLab spectrometers meet? @stoft 4 months ago
Arc Emissions- What electrodes to use? @m3sca1 4 months ago
Is there a simple and reliable way to test the rigidity of the spectrometer? @bsugar 5 months ago
How can a spectrometer's wavelength resolution be measured? @warren 5 months ago
Question: Can i upload csv files on spectralworkbench for calibration and other purposes? @shubham 5 months ago
How to neutralize/remove the source's spectra to obtain absorption spectra? @shubham 5 months ago
Spectrometer from a drone @sylvainbonhommeau 6 months ago
Question: Can DIY-spectrometer be used for analysis of soil @interestedperson_ha 7 months ago
Question: Using a webcam with a image resolution of 1920x1020 @seko 7 months ago
Mini spectrophotometer - how does this deviate from the Beer-Lambert law? @FoxClass 7 months ago
Question: How to rename a set? @AndrewJamesLaplante 7 months ago
Question: How do I get the calibration user interface? @PeterDH 8 months ago
Question: Why average? And what happens to the second Green? @viechdokter 9 months ago
Question: Calibration... @Georgi 9 months ago
Question: Focus on mobile phone @clownfish 9 months ago
Question: I want to do citizen bee science @FortunaWolf 9 months ago
Question: ccd camera on metascop @leanr 9 months ago
Question: Getting the spectrometer to work with a Raspberry Pi? @anjohn12 9 months ago
Question: How to I convert the spectrum from the webcam to a spectral power density graph. @cjtiaan 10 months ago

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

list:plots-spectrometry tool activities:spectrometry upgrades:spectrometry