Analyze Samples in the Classroom, Lab or Field with this Portable Fluorescence Spectrometer

2010-05 Ring Spec

Custom software and the patented curved reflective surface in this spectrometer reduce instrument size and focus light so well that inexpensive LEDs replace expensive light sources.

This portable, durable, inexpensive florescence spectrometer has a variety of potential applications, including the following:

  • Secondary education, where important STEM topics may not be adequately addressed because spectroscopy instruments are too expensive to purchase and maintain.
  • Field research in which technicians are required to transport water or soil samples to a lab for spectroscopy analysis, adding time and complication .
  • Remote sensor applications where data collection may be limited due to spectrometer power and durability limitations.

Fluorescence spectrometers are instruments used to identify and quantify the chemical makeup of a sample material by measuring changes in light that is directed through the   sample.  Different compounds or molecules each absorb and emit light in a unique and consistent manner, so the wavelength of the light emitted by the spectrometer changes when it encounters compounds in the sample.  This change is what is measured and used to identify the compound.

Light emitted by the spectrometer is split into a spectrum by a component called the diffraction grating before passing through the sample. Traditional fluorescence spectrometers use small, precision-made flat diffraction gratings coupled with a high power light source.  Spectrometers of this design cost upwards of $2,000 and require periodic replacement of $700 lamps.  They are not portable because of the delicate instrumentation and the large amount of power required for the light source.

Our instrument instead uses a larger, circular diffraction grating – similar in appearance to a music CD that has been shaped into a bowl – and a  small, inexpensive, low power ultraviolet LED light source.  The diffraction grating focuses the small amount of light so effectively that the entire instrument can be powered through a laptop or netbook USB port, as our prototypes are.  With no moving parts, these instruments are rugged and portable, fitting easily into a small backpack.

These spectrometers are ideal for real time, onsite testing either in person or through an automated wireless network.  Both hardware and software can be customized for operation in stationary or roving sensing devices, and to accommodate a variety of desired spectra.

Issued US Patent 8,717,560

Contact kris.burton@maine.edu

Reference 2010-05

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