Join The Parade, New South Wales - Ph:+61-2-1234-5678


Curriculum Relevance & Outcomes:

Prism Vs Diffraction grating

USING SPECTROSCOPY, STUDENTS MAY EXPLORE a variety of products in the local environment, eg food products and industrial products. Students describe a range of manufactured products in the local environment and how their different purposes influence their design - ST1 BOS: http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/science/science-k10/content/962/

Students may also use spectroscopy to identify that adding or removing heat causes a change of state between solids and liquids and to identify the physical properties of natural and processed materials, and how these properties influence their use - ST2 BOS: http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/science/science-k10/content/968/

Spectroscopy and Spectrography

Spectroscopy /spɛkˈtrɒskəpi/ is the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, by a prism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectroscopy.

    Spectroscopy is a powerful tool that can use colour to reveal
    both the composition of your fridge light, and the composition
    of the universe a second after 'the big bang' with equal certainty!

Spectroscopy and Spectrography are terms used to refer to the measurement of radiation intensity as a function of wavelength and are often used to describe experimental spectroscopic methods. Spectral measurement devices are referred to as spectrometers, spectrophotometers, spectrographs or spectral analyzers.

WARNING: Never point your spectrometer towards the sun and never look at directly at, or at reflections of the sun.

Most of the experiments below are designed to be viewed via a webcam:

Video 3. Seeing things with heat (infrared)

Infrared Spectroscopy + Spectography

Video 4. Spectroscopy Explained (ADVANCED!)

Video 5. Leading Edge Spectroscopy (LONG video - ADVANCED) Garik Israelian: What's inside a star?

Example Project Idea(s) Using Colour Spectroscopy & Spectography

All of the following projects are simple enough to be done by primary school kids using very cheap, robust and easily available materials.

Spectroscopy for beginners - Make A Super Spinning Colour Mixer:

Colour mixing wheel Build your own super spinning colour mixer' as explained here.

The colours you put on the Super Colour Spinner are the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. When you start the wheel spinning, what do you notice about each of the three colour circles on the cardboard disc?

Explain how you think this happens?

More detail: The Newton disk

Save The Planet & The Animals From Micro-bead Madness:

Micro Beads Use a spectral photography/webcam to identify products that contain micro-beads

Avoid further water contamination by checking the ingredients in your mum/dad's favourite brand of exfoliating cleanser.

If the list of ingredients includes polyethylene or polypropylene, two types of plastic commonly used in microbeads.

Use Webcam Spectography To Detect Cancer Risk:

Detecting cancer risk by counting moles Studies have shown that people who have 11 or more moles on one of their arms could have a higher risk of the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

Students may design a project using a simple webcam to identify (colour) and count the number of moles on a persons arm. Students may create a database to store and analyse their results.

Studies, which were large and lasted at least 15 years, found that women with more moles were more likely to develop breast cancer compared with women who had fewer or none of them.

NSW Cancer Institute on-line risk tool: http://www.darksideoftanning.com.au/reduce_risk/quiz.aspx

Computer recognition: Detecting skin-colored pixels, although seems a straightforward easy task, has proven quite challenging for many reasons. The appearance of skin in an image depends on the illumination conditions (illumination geometry and color) where the image was captured. We humans are very good at identifying object colors in a wide range of illuminations, this is called color constancy. Color constancy is a mystery of perception. Therefore, an important challenge in skin detection is to represent the color in a way that is invariant or at least in sensitive to changes in illumination: http://www.cs.rutgers.edu/~elgammal/pub/skin.pdf

Webcam Spectography & Fingernail Diagnostics

Did you know that your fingernails can provide clues to your overall health?

How could you set up a device to identify fingernail types that might help identify possible health problems as described in the links below?

Measuring Colour Blindness & Colour Perception

Design an experiment to measure how perceptive users are of colour.

Color can be perceived in various degrees across and among species, and with this application, users can test their abilities by selecting the colour sample they see as different than the rest, while being educated about human colour perception.

Why is the night sky dark

.. and what does that have to do with infrared anyhow?

Build Your Own Spectroscope

Spectroscope drawing WARNING: Never point your spectrometer towards the sun and never look at directly at, or at reflections of the sun.

The way this spectroscope works is very simple.

The light whose spectrum we want to measure enters through a slit (a very thin hole) into the spectroscope, and gets reflected in our mirror. Then it travels towards the DVD sector, where the light gets refracted.

We can then either look through the viewing windor or we can fix it to a camera (e.g.: a webcam or smart-phone camera) and adjust the position in order to capture and view the spectrum of the light.

The best cheap DIY spectroscope:

Periscope Type DVD Spectroscope (best quality image and low cost DIY design):

Next best DIY spectroscope

This spectrometer is a bit easier to build and requires only some scissors, an offcut from an old CD/DVD and some stiff card. Plan, instructions and lots of excellent resources at Public Labs DIY Spectroscopy:

DIY Spectroscopes (advanced projects)

Spectrum image Spectroscopy - Mixing & separating colours:

Assorted links:

* More examples

WARNING: Never point your spectrometer towards the sun and never look at directly at, or at reflections of the sun.

Now point the spectrometer slit at a light, and look through the hole at the CD. Note the arrows on the sides of the spectroscope that show the directions to the light source, and to look. Try looking at an incandescent light bulb, and then at a fluorescent light bulb. Are all fluorescent lights the same? Try street lights and other light sources. Look at light reflected off of colored paper, or shining through transparent coloured plastic, glass, or juice.

How does white light compare to light reflected from white paper? Does the paper look the same under different lights? Can you tell why colours look ok under some street lights and not others, despite the similar appearance of the lights themselves? (HINT: The lights may look similar to your eye, but not to the spectroscope.)

What happens to the spectrum image if you widen and narrow the spectroscope slit?

Miscellaneous Resources & Links


NASA - Optics Guide For Educators

Simple DIY Astronomy Spectroscope

Prism Spectroscope

PublicLabs Oil Testing Kit


Infragram is an online tool for analyzing plant health with near-infrared imagery.


Measuring change (heart beat for example) using webcam motion detection.

Google Deep Dream

Google has spent the last few years teaching computers how to see, understand, and appreciate our world. It's an important goal that the search giant hopes will allow programs to classify images just by “looking” at them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeepDream

Enter simple words and a couple of images into an AI program. Tell the program know what those images contain ( what objects - dogs, cats, mountains, bicycles, … ) and give it a random image and ask it what objects it can find in this image. Then, the program will start transforming the image till it can find something similar to what it already knows and thus you see strange artifacts morphing in the dreamed image ( like eyes or human faces morphing in image of a pyramid).

This week, Google announced a breakthrough that could prove its quantum computer is actually using quantum mechanics. When researchers gave the D-Wave 2X a carefully crafted test problem, the 1,000-qubit computer solved it 100,000,000 times faster than a classical computer could.

brainbox/young-scientists/spectroscopy/home.txt · Last modified: 21/12/2016/ 16:19 (external edit)