Citizen scientists can test local bodies of water, soil and household products for contaminants with a new breed of spectrometers.
Spectrometers are widely used by astronomers and chemists to identify unknown materials. By making the tool more accessible, an open-research community called Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) is hoping to build a “Wikipedia-style library” of environmental data. Public Labs is looking for support on Kickstarter to build a kind of “Shazam for materials.”
Spectrometers, which typically cost thousands of dollars, are used to identify the makeup of different liquids and solids. By passing light through materials, scientists can pinpoint key characteristics and contaminants. A liquid or solid’s spectral data is like its fingerprint. Users can use its open-source software to analyze, identify and compare the spectral data of different materials.