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This DIY kit helps analyze materials and contaminants. We need your help to build a library of open-source spectral data.
This DIY kit helps analyze materials and contaminants. We need your help to build a library of open-source spectral data.
This DIY kit helps analyze materials and contaminants. We need your help to build a library of open-source spectral data.
1,633 backers pledged $110,538 to help bring this project to life.

A new Balloon and Kite Mapping project from Public Lab


Hi, everyone - although it's been a few years since this campaign, Public Lab has been growing quickly, and we've just launched a new project -- as part of Kickstarter Gold.

We're bringing back the Balloon Mapping Kit along with two exciting new prototyping kits -- the Mini Balloon Kit and the Mini Kite Kit. At half the cost of the original, these are designed for portability and for a new generation of smaller cameras that's now available.

We'd love to hear what you think:


Something new related to the project you helped launch...


At the end of 2012, you all pledged support to help us launch the DIY Spectrometry Kit. Your funding built into a serious analysis tool, and your contributions to our research project have lead us through numerous hardware revisions, research proving the tool’s capabilities, and the exploration of new techniques for pollution detection -- and dozens of new applications and experiments with a remarkable, affordable tool!

This week, we launched our first pollutant-specific testing kit, the Homebrew Oil Testing Kit, which is based on the core technologies developed in the DIY Spectrometry Kit. Beyond the huge amount of research we've done to improve these techniques (often in collaboration with some of you!), we’ve added new features, including sample containers and lasers! Now we need your help. Join us to beta test our system, or pick up a finished kit when they ship next spring.

We still have work left to do on our spectrometer so that it can provide a cheap alternative to laboratory equipment. As other projects come to market with proprietary consumer-grade spectrometers, we continue to push open research, open hardware, and a community-based approach, with no “secret algorithms”. We hope you will continue to join us in lowering the barriers to pollution monitoring.

Join the Public Lab nonprofit team!


We have a really exciting update from the Public Lab nonprofit--thanks to your support and the growth of our tools community, we're hiring! If you're interested in open hardware, project management and sales, check out our Kits Initiative Manager job description below. Thanks again for all your great support!

Hack your holidays with Public Lab!


This winter, choose gifts that delight your loved ones AND help support your favorite non-profit organization, Public Lab.

Check out these holiday specials at

Intro Kits for just $5!

Our foldable kits are on sale now at half price -- only $5 plus shipping for the Infragram plant analysis filter pack or the award-winning papercraft Foldable Mini-Spectrometer! These ship in a flat 6x9" envelope. Use discount code: INFRAREDNOSEDREINDEER

Gift Cards

Not sure which kit would make the best gift? We now offer Public Lab Store Gift Cards, so your giftee can make their own (DIY) choices!

 Order/Preorder our newest items

We are excited to announce two new kits in our store -- the Smartphone Spectrometer is now shipping, and the Infragram Webcams will ship in January.

Perfectly presented presents

We make perfect packages easy. If you're in the US and you'd like our illustrated boxes to arrive without postage markings, please select "Priority" under "Shipping Method". This option is available for all of our kits except balloon kits and kite kits.

Just imagine:

  • Walking through a winter-wonderland with winged widgets 
  • Capturing aerial photos of your family's snow angels and snow forts 
  • Documenting spectra of chestnuts roasting over an open fire 
  • Searching for Rudolf the Infrared-Nosed Reindeer
  • Hosting a spirited spectral showdown to explore your favorite liquors
  • Basking in the spectral richness of holiday candles, colored LED lights, and incandescent bulbs

Public Lab open hardware kits are lovingly created by a community of contributors. These kits embody the spirit of giving, making them the perfect way to open source your holiday. Do you know someone special who'd love a balloon mapping kit or a spectrometer for their beloved smartphone? Public Lab kits make wonderful gifts for your friends and family--explore DIY science together around the kitchen table and outside!

Give back this season:

Your purchases at the Public Lab Store help us fulfill our non-profit mission: to make civic science something everyone can do, especially those affected by environmental injustice. Your support matters!

Wonderfully wintry photos of ribbony kits by Public Lab contributor and organizer Chris Fastie.

Introducing the Public Lab Smartphone Spectrometer!


At long last, we've finished shipping all but a handful of the Smartphone Spectrometer kits, formerly called the "Backpack Spectrometer" -- and you can now order a kit today if you did not originally sign up for one (next round of shipping begins by the end of the month): 

As you can see above, they came out minimal but nice-looking, and they're quite sturdy. We ultimately went with an optically printed slit which gives you a fantastically narrow and consistent aperture and excellent resolution as a result. These are designed to work with most smartphones, from Android to iOS devices (even tablets) although if your phone has a curvy back, you may need to use more of the provided black foam adhesive to reduce light leakage. (Yes, that's a Firefox OS phone pictured above.)


The web-based software runs on a variety of browsers (we love the web stack!), and we'd love to see someone test it on iOS with the Bowser Browser. We're still working on a native app for iOS, and expanding the offline- and mobile-friendly parts of the site; you may get more mileage doing the analysis bits on a desktop computer.

 Assembled, though without the diffraction grating installed.

Attaching it to your phone

We went through many iterations of attachment techniques, but ultimately we opted for flexibility. The kit includes several different adhesives which can be used to permanently or temporarily (with Glue Dots!) attach the device to the back of your phone or tablet. What's worked best for me is to get a matte black case for a given phone, and permanently attach the spectrometer to the case. Then it's quite cleanly and permanently connected, but you can still get your phone out and use it normally. Some of you may want a spectrometer permanently attached to your phone... :-P

The device also has a screw hole designed for a 1/4" camera mount, so you can attach it to a tripod, maybe for monitoring something far away like a gas refinery flare. Finally, it also includes a "Public Lab" mini-screwdriver. I swear, it was actually cheaper to get those with a logo on them than without.

Expansion packs

We designed the aperture (with help from Brad Dudenhoffer) to fit one standard 1cm x 1cm cuvette full of some sample you've collected, but it's also set up to be attached to experimental setups which might include calibrated lights, lasers, or what have you. We've definitely thought of:

  • telescope adapters
  • controlled ultraviolet lighting
  • connecting to a transparent pipe for in-line spectrometry monitoring of a liquid
  • mounting these to DSLR cameras for extreme hi-res spectra, and long exposures

But the sky's the limit, this is open hardware, so get 3d printing and try things out!

Congratulations to Mathew Lippincott who led the design, Brad Dudenhoffer who assisted, and Noah Hochman, who packed and shipped these with Mathew. And a big thanks to all our Kickstarter backers who made this possible and were patient for the longest time before we got these out the door.

Design files

This being open hardware (CERN OHL 1.1), you can find ALL the files here.

These are also on Thingiverse:

And here is a more 3D-printable version by Brad Dudenhoffer:

Order a 3D print on Shapeways here:

And don't forget our other spectrometers, of which over 3000 are now in the wild: