[Jure Spiler] was at a flea market and got himself a spectrophotometer — a device that measures absorbance and transmittance of light at different wavelengths. This particular model seems to be about 25 years old, and it’s controlled by a built-in keyboard and uses a graphical LCD to display collected data. That might have been acceptable when it was made, but it wasn’t enough for [Jure]. Since he wanted to plot the spectrophotometry data and be able to save it into a CSV file, hacking ensued.
He decided to tap into the the display communication lines. This 128×64 graphical display, PC-1206B, uses a 8-bit interface, so with a 16-channel logic analyzer, he could see the data being sent to the display. He even wrote decoder software – taking CSV files from the logic analyzer and using primitive optical recognition on the decoded pixels to determine the digits being shown, and drawing a nice wavelength to absorbance graph. From there, he set out to make a standalone device sniffing the data bus and creating a stream of data he could send to a computer for storage and processing.
[Jure] stumbled into a roadblock, however, when he tried to use an Arduino for this task. Even using a sped-up GPIO library (as opposed to notoriously inefficient
digitalRead), he couldn’t get a readout frequency higher than 80 KHz – with the required IO readout rate deemed as 1 MHz, something else would be called for. We do wonder if something like RP2040 with its PIO machinery would be better for making such captures.
At that point, however, he found out that there’s undocumented serial output on one of the pins of the spectrophotometer’s expansion port, and is currently investigating that, having shelved the LCD sniffing direction. Nevertheless, this serves as yet another example for us, for those times when an LCD connection is all that we can make use of.
We’ve seen hackers sniff LCD interfaces to get data from reflow ovens, take screenshots from Game Boys and even equip them with HDMI and VGA ports afterwards. With a skill like this, you can even give a new life to a vintage calculator with a decayed display! Got an LCD-equipped device but unsure about which specific controller it uses? We’ve talked about that!
Continue reading “Exporting Data From Old Gear Through LCD Sniffing”
Spectrophotometry is an important scientific tool, most commonly used in biology and chemistry. It’s a method to measure the amount of light absorbed by a chemical solution at various different wavelengths. While it’s typically the preserve of expensive lab equipment, [Daniel Hingston] built a rig to do the job at home.
The heart of the rig is a normal filament-based flashlight bulb, which produces good-quality white light containing all colors. A prism is then used to split the light into its component wavelengths, so that the sample can be tested across the whole light spectrum. The prism is rotated by a servo motor, which exposes the sample to the full rainbow, while an Arduino uses a light-dependent resistor to measure how much light makes it through the sample. Thus, the amount of light absorbed by the sample can be calculated, relative to calibrations made with no sample present.
It’s a simple build that can be achieved with fairly common materials, barring the prism which may need to be specially ordered. It would be a great way to teach highschool students about advanced scientific concepts, as well as showing them behind the curtain of how lab equipment works.
We see all kinds of DIY science gear around here; this lantern-based bioreactor is a great example. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Arduino Rig Does Spectrophotometry”
We know the effect of passing white light through a prism and seeing the color spectrum that comes out of the other side. It will not be noticeable to the naked eye, but that rainbow does not fully span the range of [Roy G. Biv]. There are narrowly absent colors which blur together, and those missing portions are a fingerprint of the matter the white light is passing through or bouncing off. Those with a keen eye will recognize that we are talking about spectrophotometry which is identifying those fingerprints and determining what is being observed and how much is under observation. The device which does this is called a spectrometer and [Justin Atkin] invites us along for his build. Video can also be seen below.
Along with the build, we learn how spectrophotometry works, starting with how photons are generated and why gaps appear in the color spectrum. It is all about electrons, which some of our seasoned spectrometer users already know. The build uses a wooden NanoDrop style case cut on a laser engraver. It needs some improvements which are mentioned and shown in the video so you will want to have some aluminum tape on hand. The rest of the bill of materials is covered including “Black 2.0” which claims to be the “mattest, flattest, black acrylic paint.” Maybe that will come in handy for other optical projects. It might be wise to buy first surface mirrors cut to size, but you can always make bespoke mirrors with carefully chosen tools.
Continue reading “Spectrometer Is Inexpensive And Capable”