Apparently a lot of people were interested in my spectrophotometry project! It was picked up by several websites including BoingBoing and HackADay. An update is long 0verdue [ed: HERE], but first some answers to questions I got. A few things I should have mentioned (the -photometer actually uses a transmission diffraction grating, which is what you see in those glasses that put rainbows on everything, [eg, these.] They work slightly differently but the principle is the same.) I also left a lot of detail out because I didn’t think people would be interested. Here’s the dirt:
What about the width of the light source? [BB#3; TO comment from James]
As it happens, the shape of the light source is one of the factors effecting the resolution of the device. When a beam of light hits the diffraction grating, ‘copies’ of it get reflected at different angles, and thus get projected to different locations. If the beam is thick, then the red copy of the beam will also be thick, and will overlap significantly with the orange copies. If the beam is very wide, there will be so much overlap that all colors overlap in the middle of the spectrum, and you get a white blur edged with red and blue.
You reduce this overlap by making the beam thinner. I do in fact do this; it is unpictured but there is a beam-narrowing slit in front of the spectrophotometer, similar to the one in the spectroscope. The ideal setup is an infinitely bright light behind an infinitely thin slit, but this is difficult to accomplish on a DIY scale, though two razor blades can be a good approximation. I used double-layered electrical tape with a ~1.5mm slit cut in it, further narrowed with bits of aluminum. Also, although a smaller slit means higher resolution, it also lets less light through, which can lead to detector sensitivity issues.
You need to remove baseline detector response! [BB#5]
I did ;D What Anon is saying is that it doesn’t make sense to claim that these data are an absorption spectrum: Continue reading