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:

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.

Lego Spectrometer Kit

Our most recent kit, incorporating community improvements while balancing low cost and ease of construction. Choose between webcam and Raspberry Pi camera versions and build attachments width standard Lego connectors.

Build one Buy one

Papercraft Spectrometry Intro Kit

A $9 paper 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. The flat design can be printed on a laser printer or photocopied to make more.

Build one Buy one


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 »
Build a papercraft spectrometer for your phone -- version 2.0 - - @warren - - 2 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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
Scan and compare different gases (in discharge tubes, like neon) using a DIY spectrometer - - @warren - - 27 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 »
Make a narrow slit for a DIY spectrometer out of paper - - @warren - - 0 replications: Try it »
Revised 3D printable mini spectrometer - - @B-winters - - 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 »
Spectrometer 3.0 Cuvette Add-on - - @programmer1200 - - 0 replications: Try it »
DIY-spectrometer episode 2 (using LEGO) - - @TakeshiMatsumoto - - 0 replications: Try it »
Fraunhofer - - @cfastie 30m easy 1 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 »

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. 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 »
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 »
Constructing a Desktop Spectrometer with no Wood, and no Velcro build in-progress @abdul 1h easy 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 »
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 »
Printable 3D Spectometer - - @mdiego2798 - - 1 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 »

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.


We're working to refine and improve DIY spectrometry on a number of fronts; here, take a look at the leading challenges we're hoping to solve, and post your own. For now, we're using the Q&A feature, so just click "Ask a question" to post your own challenge.

Be sure to add:

  • constraints: expense, complexity
  • goals: performance, use cases

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
How do I... @akhila over 3 years ago 13
Can the spectrometer or turbocharger be used for lal testing? @Ag8n over 6 years ago 3
How can we detect contaminants in water samples with a DIY spectrometer using reagents? @warren over 6 years ago 1
Can a DIY spectrometer be used to measure water turbidity? @warren over 6 years ago 6
What's an easy way to compare two liquid samples with a spectrometer? @warren almost 7 years ago 7
How do I collect a sample for laboratory analysis? @warren almost 7 years ago 3
Desktop Spectrometry Kit to arduino? @jjoll about 7 years ago 5
Can a Spectrometer be used to detect material type? @jjoll about 7 years ago 3
What are good containers to use for spectrometry samples? @warren almost 8 years ago 1
Can I upgrade a DIY spectrometer with a Raspberry Pi camera? @warren almost 8 years ago 10
Question: Can DIY-spectrometer be used for analysis of soil @interestedperson_ha about 8 years ago 7
Getting the spectrometer to work with a Raspberry Pi? @anjohn12 over 8 years ago 6


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!

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

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
Can I measure CSF turbidity in real time? @Cheesealmighty over 2 years ago 3
Can DIY spectrometers be useful for pH determination and/or dissolved organic carbon of a water solution? @alejobonifacio over 2 years ago 19
¿como se que mi espectro de una solución sigue la ley de beer? @edithcaballero19t about 3 years ago 1
Webinar on using hyperspectral imaging in the recycling industry @amirberAgain almost 4 years ago 2
Substitute diffraction grating for DVD? @msuphysicsformcb almost 4 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 4 years ago 1
Do you have any tips for splicing DVD-Rs for spectrometer builds? @mimiss about 4 years ago 4
Measuring UV-C Sources @jkenny23 about 4 years ago 4
What light sources might I use to calibrate my spectrometer if I don’t have a CFL available? @mimiss about 4 years ago 8
Problem whit workbench spectra. Unable to manipulate(work) whit any image @damian_orovitz about 4 years ago 1
How can I get the menu to calibrate SpectralWorkbench? @experimentierwerkstatt_dm about 4 years ago 9
what are the best light sensors? @omarion almost 5 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 about 5 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 about 5 years ago 1
How do I identify the base polymers in an unknown plastic for recycling? @profpearce about 5 years ago 7
Can you help us with calibrating our spectrometer? @KristinaTamara about 5 years ago 7
Split DVD – which part to use for spectrometer @Nelari about 5 years ago 4
Can you give me measure for spectrum? Thank you. @Skorex about 5 years ago 2
What causes spectrum distortion? @nathanathan over 5 years ago 1
How can I connect my gopro to SpectralWorkbench software? Is there other open software that would? @CD3000 over 5 years ago 3
UV measurements @exekutive over 5 years ago 5
[SOLVED] Why is my image of the spectrum extremely "slim"? DVD+RW is not good as a diffraction grating! @jaksch about 6 years ago 6
How can I get the absorption spectra once I have calibrated my spectrometer data? @amenzel8 about 6 years ago 1
Most accurate spectrographs? @jneish about 6 years ago 1

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