PLOTS Spectrometer, ChemistryDude Edition V2.3

by BradDudenhoffer, published

PLOTS Spectrometer, ChemistryDude Edition V2.3 by BradDudenhoffer Aug 7, 2012


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Version 3.0 is now available at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:49934.

This is a spectrometer that straps onto an Android or iOS phone, tablet, or any camera capable of focusing very close (macro-mode) and allows you to collect spectra. Why would you want one? You can use it to identify the elemental composition of things (light bulbs, etc) based on the colors of light they emit.

This version (2.3) reduces the number of parts to be printed, improves the light seal around the tube, and is MUCH sturdier than all previous versions.


Version 3.0 is now available at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:49934.

This device consists of three different parts. The base has four pegs to catch rubber bands so you can quickly attach it to your phone, tablet, or camera. Even better, the bottom of the base is flat so you can glue it to a case that you can remove from your phone so you don't have to recalibrate it every time you put it back on. The holder holds the grating. The tube hold everything together.


  1. Cut a piece of grating (either holographic film grating or CD/DVD/BLRAY film) to fit over the holder. I found that 1000 lines per mm diffraction grating works VERY well and is available for less than US$3 from many scientific supply stores. This is the one I am using. http://tinyurl.com/9tjrz8r Hot-glue the grating to the plastic film with the grating lines parallel to the rectangular opening. Alternatively, you can hold it in place and tack the edges down with a hot soldering iron.

  2. Use acetone to attach the holder to the angled end. There are three little flat platforms that hold it in place. It works best to slide the holder into position and then use a toothpick or very small paint brush to add acetone around the edges.

  3. Cut a narrow slit in the solid end of the tube. The narrower the slit the better. A thin razor saw and works well. http://tinyurl.com/9e94f8e The slit needs to be as straight across two of the flat sides as you can make it and be parallel with the grating piece you already installed. Again, if this doesn't make much sense take a look at the pictures.

  4. Strap it to your camera/phone/tablet and point it at a bright light. Fluorescent bulbs are great for this. You will see a rainbow of colors on your screen. If you look closely, you will notice the colors are not even. Instead, there are areas of light and dark. These light bars tell us what elements are present in the bulb. If you are using an Android device and the Opera browser you can go to http://spectralworkbench.org/ to capture, save, and share your spectra.


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This is so great! Really seems a shame they didn't feature it.

Thanks, Erik. The design is evolving at a steady pace and has changed significantly since the prototype. Unfortunately, not many people outside the open science movement understand how useful something like this could be. I think my next step is to either make a fold-flat version of this one or switch to a USB webcam based design.

Hi Brad,
I need to make spectrometer exactly like this. I need to take spectra of samples. Can I do it using the method you describe here? Any more help how to start building the same?? Thanks.

Hello jayesh. The spectrometer works pretty well. Just print the parts and follow the assembly instructions above. I will take some assembly photos the next time I build one.