Open Source Raman Spectrometer Is Cheaper, But Not Cheap

Raman spectrography uses the Raman scattering of photons from a laser or other coherent light beam to measure the vibrational state of molecules. In chemistry, this is useful for identifying molecules and studying chemical bonds. Don’t have a Raman spectroscope? Cheer up! Open Raman will give you the means to build one.

The “starter edition” replaces the initial breadboard version which used Lego construction, although the plans for that are still on the site, as well. [Luc] is planning a performance edition, soon, that will have better performance and, presumably, a greater cost.

Looking at the bill of materials, it looks like it would well over $2,000 to build, with the bulk of the cost being for the optical parts of the device. That doesn’t include the cuvette which holds the sample will set you back another $250 or so. We aren’t sure how much the performance version will cost to build, but even double that wouldn’t be out of the budget of a well-funded college lab.

Typically, these are expensive because Raman scattering is a very subtle effect. Detecting it is no mean feat. It looks like the project thinks schools will be interested in a low-cost Raman spectrometer, and they are actively seeking academic partners.

You might think this kind of instrument is exotic, but it isn’t the first one we’ve seen. It isn’t even the second one. If you want to learn more about what people do with Raman spectroscopy, you might enjoy the video from BW Tech, below.


12 thoughts on “Open Source Raman Spectrometer Is Cheaper, But Not Cheap

  1. This was featured on Hacker News a little while ago. I’ll mention here what I mentioned there:

    This project is not open. A non commercial license is in direct conflict with what is the commonly accepted definition of “open” (source or hardware) [1].

    Normally when hardware projects claim to be “open source”, I give them a pass as they sometimes have the code or other firmware under a GPL-compatible license even when they have the hardware design files under a proprietary or non-commercial license. This content is not providing any source or other files under an open/free/libre license.

    This project is “open washing” and should not be considered an “open source” project. From the front page of their website, they claim ” … 100% Open Source Raman Spectrometer” which is a bald faced lie.


    > ” … Licenses which only permit non-commercial redistribution or modification of the source code for personal use only are generally not considered as open-source licenses. … “

    1. The design files are downloadable and explicitly under a CC-BY-NC-ND license. It’s fair to say that’s not really “Open”, but it *is* “Free”.

    2. “Open Source”, “Licenses”, “Copyrights”… whatever – It doesn’t matter any more. As soon as you describe a truly useful design it is only a matter of time before – POOF- it is available on Aliexpress for a tenth of what you can produce and sell it for from a country that respects Rule of Law. On the flip-side, this can be a good thing if all you want to do is propagate your design rapidly and broadly; but just be sure your design can be replicated with near ZERO care when it comes to quality.

    3. Yeah, I wish you could improve on the design, either higher specs or lower costs.
      But the license explicitly forbids derivatives of any kind. No commercial use is also annoying but understandable.

      tbh I dislike these “openwashed” projects with “look, but don’t touch” striper-licensing.
      And calling them open source is false advertising. At most “source available”.

      1. Is that if you can locally resonate the flavor and/or fragrance functional modes of the specific aromatic(s) to emulate the aromatics molecules effect? Guessing vibrational would be effective like rotational spectra to elude to the receptors functional groups? ;-|)

  2. I can see that they are using a lot of mechanical “Thorlabs” components which are very expensive. It would be interesting to see equivalent Open Source components (maybe 3D printed).

    1. I know people who have made 3D printed kinematic mounts and their stability just sucks. Best bet is just buy used on eBay. They are generally all over and pretty cheap.

  3. I literally ordered yesterday three made in the US micrometers on eBay for ~$25 (or less as one looks like might not be as claimed and came out of a sewer), instead of the two I was eyeing brand new with mm units, to butcher for a slit adjustment and some other optical train fixture adjustments for my ghetto optical bench (on another note was just offered a surface grinder for way cost effective).

    Thinking the lock screw and even if in English units will be useful for making notes. Plus they’re made in the US restore potential if I can get away with just drilling and tapping some mount holes in the C-Frame since lately been thinking machining, 3D printed or maybe even just gluing fixtures for the optical train components onto the Spindle and Anvil to limit the mutilation.

    Thinking there are a few options to bring the price point down of this design, though I’m not quite to RAMAN yet and thinking I will be more webcam (IR lens removed) with some LIBS, ICP and other sample presentation methods for starters.

  4. Seeing the new Pi cameras like the 1/3″ 13MP Sony IMX135 or the HQ camera has me looking into those as options also and wonder what the sensors performance is without a hot lens. Been reading into the 4K action cameras also for use instead of a webcam or higher end DSLR camera. Reading the referenced article has me wondering what FLIR or similar cameras are available at a more cost effective price point? Great detail and looking forward to reading more regarding.

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