Creating Computer Control and Data-collection for the Chemistry Department Monochromator using LabVIEW

Will Hollingsworth, Chemistry, Carleton College
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Students shine several different light-sources into a monochromator and collect the emission in a broad-band photomultiplier tube that is sensitive to visible light. Using the new protocol will allow students to set up the experimental conditions and then collect their data digitally on a laptop using code that was created in this development project.

Learning Goals

It has been increasingly hard for some students to fully navigate a chart-paper-based collection system. Moving to computer control and allowing them to perform their analyses more fully within EXCEL should have a direct impact on the efficiency of their experience. Some past data sets have unfortunately been compromised by ineffective synchronization of the papaer with the monochromator drive and this change would remove that barrier to focus on the major point of the analysis which lies in the interpretation of the quantum aspects and spectroscopy.

Context for Use

This protocol will be used in a junior-level spectroscopy lab where a 0.25 meter monochromator and laptop are available for use. Although the first prototypes will probably be rougher and require more instructor assistance, the ultimate goal is to create an environment that is self-contained. As mentioned above, the activity is not yet ready for classroom use.


We already have direct evidence on their progress in that we grade their submitted group reports. It will be immediately apparent if this computer-enhancement has its desired effect.