DIY Spectroscope

Introduction: DIY Spectroscope

About: Engineer, hardware designer and self teaching enthusiast.
A spectroscope is an instrument used to break light up into its constituent colors, just like a prism does, showing the light spectrum.
Save money with this DIY physics project, by making authentic scientific tools with recycled materials.

Step 1: Required Materials:

Now you can see the world in a whole different way.
In this project I'm gonna show you how to make your own spectroscope, for under 5 bucks.
Here is what you need:

a carton or pvc tube, I'm using a toilet paper tube myself.
a blank or recycled CD
two index cards
hot glue
pen or pencil
an utility knife or scissors.
and tape

Step 2: Mark the CD

Mark a circle on the cd using the tube as a template

Step 3: Prepare the CD

Remove the reflective layer form the cd using tape, and cut the circle.

Sometimes is necessary to make a little scratch on the CD before use the tape.

Step 4: Paste the Index Cards

Place the two index cards over one side of the tube, creating a vertical slit and use hot glue to stick it in place.

Step 5: Paste the CD

Paste the circle at the other side of the tube, and make sure the lines of the cd are parallel to de slit between the cards.

Cut the rest of the index cards.

Step 6: Finish

Use some paint and it is ready, don't paint the plastic.

Step 7: Look!

Look thought the cd plastic and you'll be amazed how it is acting as a great diffraction grating, breaking light up into its constituent spectral colors. Now you should see the spectrum at both sides (like the colors of the rainbow).

Step 8: Results

You can see the light spectrum of almost any source of light, but remember: Different light sources produce different spectra. Don't look directly at the sun!

Have fun!

This image: daylight spectrum
next image: blue neon sign spectrum

1 Person Made This Project!


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10 Discussions

barringer high
barringer high

4 years ago

this is the best spectroscope ever I'm doing it for a school project rock on dude

I don't know how all y'all managed to get the label/opaque surface off the CD. I even tried using WD40 but to no avail.


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

I've read that some people use an air compressor and air gun to blast it off. You could also try using some kind of chemical (maybe an acid?) that would etch away the aluminium (or whatever other metal) but not damage the plastic (usually polycarbonate, I think).


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Ok, I will try the air compressor idea. Caustic acids in an apartment are usually frowned upon by the manager. :D

I just did this with my gradeschool boys. Worked wonderfully. Thanks for the instructions.


11 years ago on Introduction

awesome project!! i just had an idea while watching the video, could you turn this into some sort of cool diy lighting project by 1. using a bigger bulb, 2.possibly making more surfaces to refract off with more cds, 3. rotating/changing the angle of the tube mechanically? i bet you could use an arduino to make it move to the sound of a beat even =] thanks for the 'ible!


11 years ago on Introduction

What a great project! I used this in our homeschool group for both the primary and middle school classes. I did all of the prep work on the CD (cutting and removing the label), and the kids were able to easily assemble the rest of the project with adult supervision. The kids were very excited with the end result. We're working on a unit about light and color, and this was a perfect introduction to the concept that white light is actually a combination of all of the colors of the spectrum. Thanks, crowndelorean, for a low-cost project that was exciting and effective!


Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

Im always excited about physics projects. I made this for a summer group a couple years ago, diffraction gratings were expensive and a little hard to find. About the light/color unit, try to use the plastic-color filter sheets for theater lights (sorry I don't know its name in english), just paste a single layer on the card side, the effect is quite dramatic. Regards. -Sicut Aquila Ero Mente...