I'm getting ready to post a Kickstarter campaign to make a whole bunch of PLOTS spectrometers and get more people involved in that project. I'm trying different reward structures and rejiggering the script a lot and thought I'd share what I have to see if people have input.
(Updated with feedback)
$10 - A fold-up spectrometer attachment for your smartphone. Ships flat -- you cut it out and assemble it.
$35 - A proven and tested "desktop" USB spectrometry kit which you assemble inside of a VHS box. 400-900 nanometer range and 3-10 nm resolution. (please add $10 for international shipping)
$60 - An experimental "backpack" which clips to your Android phone's camera and turns it into a spectrometer. If more than 250 backers want this, we pledge to develop a native iPhone app as well. (please add $10 for international shipping)
$100 - All three of the above - (please add $60 for international shipping)
$300 - A fully-assembled and calibrated "countertop" model with Pyrex sample dishes and a full-spectrum lamp. Would look great in a coffeeshop, a wine bar, an exhibit or classroom. (please add $40 for international shipping)
A spectrometer is a tool used to identify a substance, usually by measuring the colors it absorbs. (oversimplification!)
A prism splits the colors so that each can be measured separately.
Show: bulb + DVD clip
Light passes through a sample, and some colors are absorbed. If you graph the brightness of each color in the spectrum -- like the EQ on a stereo -- the resulting spectrum is like a fingerprint, helping you to identify what was in the sample.
(...do we think everyone should have one?)
The Public Lab, our open source community (join us!) started working on spectrometry during the BP oil spill, when it was expensive or impossible to prove that some pile of brown goo was actually oil, and actually from the spill.
Show: adam with backpack spec
Unfortunately, spectrometers cost thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, so only well-funded scientists get to use them. There are no consumer spectrometers, and today's tools are not only expensive, they're hard to use.
But we are surrounded by mysterious substances, from environmental disasters to household chemicals and foodstuffs. A spectrometer is kind of like a tricorder... an essential tool in investigating unknown substances.
So, we designed and built our own. How does it work?
How? Explain our spectrometer design
Show: spectrometer walkthrough images
Working together, we've developed a simple kit built from a webcam, a VHS box, a DVD, and a piece of black card paper.
Show:2 olive oils
Two olive oils -- visibly indistinguishable -- but their spectra help tell them apart like a fingerprint. The same principle can work for oil contamination and other identifications.
Show:graph of different olive oils
We're using olive oil as a safe test material because our dream is to ID petroleum contamination. But a slightly different technique has already begun to show promise for identifying a variety of oils. Watch how this green laser produces a distinct colored glow in each of these samples of oil -- from tar to motor oil to olive oil. We're working to measure their spectra, and soon hope to have a simple test to distinguish motor oil from crude, or coal tar.
Using our DIY spectrometer and our online SpectralWorkbench.org analysis tool, Public Lab contributors have found a variety of other uses:
- Wine (already done), and vineyards already use more expensive spectrometers to analyze wines.
- Coral/aquarium lighting, grow lamps
- Finding dyes in detergent
- Public Lab contributor JoshMC used his spectrometer to test the Free and Clear detergent he's using for his newborn's diapers. Turns out it had a bluing agent to make whites look whiter.
How can you get involved?
We're looking for people to help test and refine these open source techniques and tools, so get a kit or build one yourself and start collecting samples.
We hope to build a giant open source database of spectra at SpectralWorkbench.org -- a kind of YouTube of spectral data which can be used to ID environmental contamination, as well as help people analyze things around their home, like detergents, fishtank lights, even wines and beers.
To this end we have two different spectrometers. The first is the desktop spectrometer kit we've already developed -- for only $30. It has spectral resolution of up to 1 nm -- better than many $70,000 devices. We can assemble and ship these soon after the Kickstarter ends.
The second device is just a prototype -- it's a small extension which clips to the back of your phone, turning it into a mobile, handheld spectrometer. Right now it works on the Opera browser on Android, but if we sell more than 1,000 of these, we pledge to develop a native iPhone app as well.
So join us now to improve these open source devices, and to collect spectra of all kinds of things -- invasive species, coffee, agricultural runoff, oil stains, microbrewed beer, fishtanks, grow lamps!