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Journal of the Chinese Chemical Society, 2006, 53, 1067-1072

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A Low Cost LED Based Spectrometer


Tai-Sheng Yeh* ( ) and Shih-Shin Tseng ( )

Department of Electronic Engineering, Fortune Institute of Technology, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, R.O.C.

A low cost LED based spectrometer is described. This LED based spectrometer could be operated as a standalone instrument or under PC control via serial link. A total of seven wavelength selections are available by the plug-and-measure LED light module. With the seven wavelength selections, the LED based spectrometer could provide qualitative visible absorption spectra that predict the absorption maximum. Based upon the qualitative visible spectra, quantitative photometric information could be obtained. Keywords: LED; Spectrometer; USB 2000; Low cost; Microcontroller.

INTRODUCTION There is a need in many resource limited countries and laboratories for a low cost analytical instrument that could provide both qualitative and quantitative chemical information. There are also great needs for low cost autonomous instruments that could help monitor the fragile environment around the world on a global scale.1,2 With the advances in modern electronics, microcontrollers could provide great capabilities to acquire and process sensor signals. The development of compound semiconductor manufacturing technology could also produce many LEDs with wavelengths from IR down to the 365 nm UV range. With its compact size, a wide range of selections of available wavelengths and low power consumption, LEDs are used extensively in analytical instruments as light sources.3-15 Dasgupta et. al. gave a very detailed review for LED application in flow injection analyses.3,4 LED light sources for sensor applications were also extensively reviewed by Kostov et al.5-7 Hauser et al.8-10 built a multi-wavelength spectrometer to analyze aluminum, copper, ammonia, calcium, phosphate, chromium, and nitrile. In his work, LEDs with seven wavelengths and a 2 7 fiber optic coupler were used to construct a multi-wavelength spectrometer. The 2 7 fiber optic coupler would greatly increase the cost of the spectrometer and would not be suitable for large scale employment. Hamilton et al.11 built a four color LED photometer with a material cost of about US$ 200. The LED photometer was designed with analog circuits and thus was not very flexible or user configurable. Knagge et al.12 built a spectrometer with a mini light bulb, diffraction grating and LEGO block. The material cost was also about US$ 200.

This spectrometer was not robust or inexpensive enough for large scale deployment in the field. Cantrell et al.13 designed a SLIM spectrometer with red, yellow, and blue LEDs. The total cost to construct the SLIM spectrometer is about US$ 25. A TSL230 programmable light-to-frequency converter from Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions (TAOS) was used as photo-detector for the SLIM spectrometer. The SLIM spectrometer is low cost, low power consumption and robust, thus it is very suitable for autonomous instruments employed in the field. The only limitation is the available wavelength in the SLIM spectrometer. This work intended to build a robust, low cost, multi wavelength LED based spectrometer using plug-andmeasure LED light source modules. A TCS230 programmable light-to-frequency converter from Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions (TAOS) was used as the photodetector in the current design. The total cost of the present design is about US$ 20. With a wide range wavelength selection and low cost solid-state electronic components, this LED based spectrometer is a very cost-effective instrument for resource limited developing countries and laboratories.

EXPERIMENTAL The Chemical Reagent and Electronic Components The Universal Indicator of pH solution is purchased from Panreac, Inc. The pH dye Bromocresol Purple and Bromocresol Green were purchased from Lancaster Inc., and Phenol Red and Thymol Blue were purchased from TCI, Inc. All pH buffer solutions were purchased from

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Panreac, Inc. The LED was bought from RS Components and local parts vendors. The TCS230 sensor chips were bought from TAOS, Inc. The PIC Micro 16F877A and electronic components were sourced from local electronic parts vendors. The Circuit and Hardware Tuning Fig. 1 is the circuit design for the LED based spectrometer. The TCS230 chip from TAOS, Inc. was used as photo-detector. Output-frequency scaling and photodiode color selection is set by a dip-switch connected to the S0, S1, S2, S3 input pin on the sensor chip. The sensor frequency output is received by a PIC Micro 16F877A microcontroller via PORTC.2. The signal after processing by a microcontroller is displayed on the LCD and transmitted to a PC via a RS232 serial connection. Thus the LED based spectrometer could operate standalone or be controlled by a PC to have a better visualized view of the obtained data. PC

control software written in Visual Basic 6.0 was used to set the operation mode for the experiment. The spectra of the plug-and-measure LED light sources are shown in Fig. 2(a). The emission peaks for the LED light sources were 389 nm, 407 nm, 462 nm, 527 nm, 572 nm, 587 nm and 620 nm. The actual device hardware is shown in Fig. 2(b), 2(c), 2(d). The LED light intensity and the emission bandwidth could be adjusted by the current-limiting resistor. Because the LED light intensity and the emission bandwidth would affect the measured absorbance by the LED based spectrometer, calibration against a commercial spectrometer with standard solutions is necessary for the LED based spectrometer. The best empirical value for the current-limiting resistor is set by fitting the absorbance spectra obtained by a LED based spectrometer to that obtained by a Ocean Optics USB 2000 spectrometer. A series of standard solutions to calibrate the LED based spectrometer were

Fig. 1. Circuit for LED based spectrometer.

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prepared by adding 5 ml Universal pH Indicator to 2 mL buffer solutions from pH 1 to pH 13. The spectra for the 13 standard solutions obtained by Ocean Optics USB 2000 spectrometer are shown in Fig. 3(a). The obtained spectra serve as reference for setting the value of LED currentlimiting resistors. The best value of the current-limiting resistor was set by comparing the spectra obtained from a USB 2000 spectrometer. Fig. 3(b) shows the best value for a blue LED (462 nm) was 2 kW. Experiment Procedure for Spectra Mode Typical LEDs have FWHM values of about 25 nm and a typical FWHM molecular absorption band is over 50 nm. Thus it is possible is use a discrete LED absorbance measurement to approximate the absorbance spectra of molecular absorption.

The resistor value for each LED light source was determined by comparing it with an Ocean Optics USB 2000 spectrometer. Herein the spectra of different buffer solutions from pH 1 to pH 13 were measured, and the resistor value was tuned to best fit the spectra obtained by the USB 2000 spectrometer. After the resistor value was fine tuned for the LED based spectrometer, four indicator solutions: Bromocresol Purple, Bromocresol Green, Phenol Red and Thymol Blue were measured and compared again with the USB 2000 spectrometer. This is the testing procedure for testing the performance of the spectra mode. Experiment Procedure for Photometric Mode A series of the Universal Indicator solution from 1.25 ml to 200 ml is dropped to 2 mL pH 7 buffer solution. The

Fig. 2a. Spectra of LED light source.

Fig. 2c. LED spectrometer with cover removed.

Fig. 2b. Plug-and-measure LED light source module and TCS230 detector module.

Fig. 2d. LED spectrometer with cover in measurement mode.

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absorbance variation caused by concentration difference of indicator solution is compared with the USB 2000 spectrometer for the photometric mode.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Spectra Mode The absorption spectra obtained by the LED based spectrometer are shown in Fig. 4. For the Bromocresol Purple and Bromocresol Green dye solutions, the LED based spectrometer showed very good qualitative agreement with the USB 2000 spectrometer and provided a good prediction of their absorbance spectra. In the spectra region for the maximum absorption of Bromocresol Purple and Bromocresol Green, the LED light sources are

spaced closely. For the absorption spectra of Thymol Blue, the LED based spectrometer didnt predict the absorption maximum very well. The reason was that in the present spectrometer design there was no 430 nm LED light source. For the absorption spectra of Phenol Red, the LED based spectrometer didnt produce very good absorption spectra. This is caused by the large FWHM values of the blue LED (peak 462 nm) and green LED (peak 527 nm). According to Beers law, a polychromatic light source would give a large deviation compared to a monochromatic light.14 The lack of a good 430 nm LED light source plus the lack of a light source between blue LED and green LED also contributed to the ill-behaved absorption spectra. Photometric Mode Comparison of photometric performance with an

Fig. 3a. Spectra of pH buffer solution from pH 1 to pH 13 for Universal pH Indicator.

Fig. 4a. Comparison of Bromocresol Purple spectral data with a USB 2000 spectrometer.

Fig. 3b. Tuning resistor to fit USB 2000 Absorbance.

Fig. 4b. Comparison of Bromocresol Green spectral data with a USB 2000 spectrometer.

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Ocean Optics USB 2000 spectrometer is shown in Fig. 5. The LED based spectrometer showed a similar trend with

the Ocean Optics USB 2000 spectrometer for the full measurement range. For the concentration range from 10 ml to 80 ml, the agreement with the USB 2000 spectrometer was very good for the LED based spectrometer. The LED based spectrometer could yield very good quantitative results for absorbance values under 0.8. In daily practice, absorbance measurements seldom exceed 1.0. Many commercial instruments also fail at high absorbance values. The deviation of the LED based spectrometer in the high absorbance region could be due to the polychromatic nature of the LED light sources.14

CONCLUSIONS
Fig. 4c. Comparison of Thymol Blue spectral data with a USB 2000 spectrometer

Fig. 4d. Comparison of Phenol Red spectral data with a USB 2000 spectrometer.

Both spectra mode and photometric mode for the LED based spectrometer had shown very comparable results compared to the Ocean Optics USB 2000 spectrometer. With low cost electronic components, it is possible to build a cost effective instrument for resource limited labs. The electronic components for a LED based spectrometer had a total cost of about US$ 20. Commercial instruments usually would cost more than US$ 1,000. In this respect, the LED based spectrometer was a very cost-effective instrument. Inclusion of a kinetic mode for a LED based spectrometer is possible by rewriting the firmware in a PIC microcontroller. This kind of LED based spectrometer will be very useful for both autonomous environment monitoring and educational purposes. The capability of the present LED based spectrometer can be further extended by incorporating more LEDs with different wavelengths.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors sincerely thank the National Science Council of Taiwan (No. NSC 93-2113-M-268-001) for the financial support of this work.

Received December 15, 2005.

REFERENCES
Fig. 5. Comparison of photometric data with a USB 2000 spectrometer. 1. Diamond, D. Anal. Chem. 2004, 76, 279A-286A.

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2. Sequeira, M.; Bowden, M.; Minogue, E.; Diamond, D. Talanta 2002, 56, 355-363. 3. Dasgupta, P. K.; Bellamy, H. S.; Liu, H. G.; Lopez, J. L.; Loree, E. L.; Morris, K.; Petersen, K.; Mir, K. A. Talanta 1993, 40, 53-74. 4. Dasgupta, P. K.; Eom, I.-Y.; Morris, K. J.; Li, J. Anal. Chim. Acta 2003, 500, 337-364. 5. Kostov, Y.; Rao, G. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 1999, 70, 4466. 6. Kostov, Y.; Rao, G. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 2000, 71, 4361. 7. Kostov, Y.; Rao, G. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 2003, 74, 4129. 8. Hauser, P. C.; Rupasinghe, T. W. T.; Cates, N. E. Talanta 1995, 42, 605-612.

9. Hauser, P. C.; Rupasinghe, T. W. T.; Tan, R. Chimia 1995, 49, 492-494. 10. Hauser, P. C.; Rupasinghe, T. W. T. Fresensius J. Anal. Chem. 1997, 357, 1056. 11. Hamilton, J. R.; White, J. S.; Nakhleh, M. B. J. Chem. Educ. 1996, 73, 1052-1054. 12. Knagge, K.; Raftery, D. Chem. Educator 2002, 7, 371-375. 13. Cantrell, K. M.; Ingle, Jr. J. D. Anal. Chem. 2003, 75, 27. 14. Skoog, D. A.; Holler, F. J.; Nieman, T. A. Principles of Instrumental Analysis; 5th ed.; Harcourt Brace: Orlando, FL, 1998.