Shedding light on spectrophotometry: The SpecUP educational spectrophotometer

Patricia B.C. Forbes, Johan A. Nöthling
2014 South African Journal of Science  
Students often regard laboratory instruments as 'black boxes' which generate results, without understanding their principles of operation. This lack of understanding is a concern because the correct interpretation of analytical results and the limitations thereof is invariably based on an understanding of the mechanism of measurement. Moreover, a number of tertiary institutions in Africa have very limited resources and access to laboratory equipment, including that related to the field of
more » ... the field of photonics, which prevents students from acquiring hands-on practical experience. We address both of these challenges by describing how students can assemble a novel, low-cost spectrophotometer, called the SpecUP, which can then be used in a range of experiments. The same kind of information can be generated as that obtained with costly commercial spectrophotometers (albeit of a lower quality). With the SpecUP, students also have the opportunity to vary instrumental parameters and to observe the effects these changes have on their experimental results, allowing for enquiry-based learning of spectroscopic principles. The results obtained for some chemistry-related spectrophotometric experiments are described for each of the two operational modes of the SpecUP, although the instrument can be applied in fields ranging from physics to biochemistry.
doi:10.1590/sajs.2014/20130096 fatcat:ybphhvp4hrbe7mnrv3yulotfia