The 2014 Hackaday Prize offered fabulous prizes for the best exemplars of an open, clearly documented device involving connected electronics. Committed hardware hacker fl@c@ (we understand that’s pronounced “flatcat”) wasn’t in the habit of opening up their work, but had been thinking that perhaps they should, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a go. They decided to make an entry of one of their current works-in-progress, a DIY Raman spectrometer based on a Raspberry Pi. The project, named ramanPi, made it to the final of the contest, and was declared fifth prize winner at the prize announcement in Munich a couple of weeks ago.
Raman spectroscopy is a molecular identification technique that, like other spectroscopic techniques, works by detecting and analysing the characteristic ways in which substances absorb and emit radiation in various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It relies on the phenomenon of Raman scattering, in which a tiny proportion of the light falling on a sample is absorbed and then re-emitted at a different frequency; the shift in frequency is characteristic of the structure of the material, and can be used to identify it.
The ideal molecular identification technique is sensitive (requiring only small quantities of sample), non-destructive of the sample, unambiguous, fast, and cheap; spectroscopic methods perform pretty well against all but the final criterion. This means that fl@c@’s Raman spectrometer, which uses a Raspberry Pi and 3D-printed parts together with readily available off-the-shelf components, removes an obstacle to using a very valuable technique for individuals and organisations lacking a large equipment budget.
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