Design, construction and calibration of a low-cost spectrometer

(supervisor: Dave Langstaff)

Nature of project: experimental, experimental

Available to full-time physicists or joint students.

Project description and methodology

This project is to investigate the design and construction of an optical spectrometer. The student is encouraged to investigate different configurations for the optical path of the instrument using a breadboard and a range of research grade optical components.

Once a basic configuration has been decided upon, experiments should be to evaluate different design options, for example the use of a diffraction grating constructed from a CD as opposed to the grating film available. Consideration should be given to a range of different light detection options, such as a webcam.

Having constructed an instrument, the student should calibrate and characterise the instrument, in terms of sensitivity, noise, dynamic range and wavelength accuracy.

Software to collect images form the camera and display these as spectra should be written in an appropriate programming language. The project can be implemented either on a PC or on a Raspberry Pi.

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
One development from the basic project would be to construct a casing/optical system for the instrument using a 3d printed housing.

There are many opportunities for developing the control software for the instrument. At its simplest this could be a command line interface which takes a spectrum and produces a spreadsheet file for further analysis, a fully developed control software would allow instrument parameters to be easily controlled and display a spectrum in real time on a suitable display.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

This project is only available as a Y3 project.

Initial literature for students:

  1. https://engineering.tamu.edu/media/1002926/aggie-challenge_report_-_low_cost_spectrophotometer_1_.pdf
  2. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-mobile-optical-spectrometer-for-everyone#/
  3. https://ibsen.com/technology/spectrometer-design-guide/
  4. R. Neto, M. Niehus, Portable Optical Fiber Coupled Low Cost Visible Spectrometer, Procedia Technology, 17 (2014) 595-600.

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

The project is fairly straightforward, all mechanical and optical components are already available.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Outline design of instrumentend of October
First light images takenChristmas
Instrument construction complete.end of February
Software complete and instrument calibrated & characterised.Easter

Students taking this project will have to submit a full risk assessment form