Citizen scientists can test local bodies of water, soil and household products for contaminants with a new breed of spectrometers.
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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.
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Public Labs, an open community devoted to DIY civic science, is making four types of DIY spectrometers available on Kickstarter. See the video above for an item breakdown.
Public Labs has had prior success on Kickstarter with open-source environmental projects. The organization successfully launched a line of DIY balloon mapping kits after using the platform. It also successfully funded a grassroots mapping project, which combined crowdsourced aerial pictures (using the DIY mapping balloons and kites) of the areas affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Would you use the DIY spectrometer? Tell us in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.