Hello there !
This post is completely constructed from my imaginations and dreams, that are influenced by my experiences with my past and present research. It also is the result of my retrospective and introspective adversary thoughts that smoothly forced me write about it and share with anybody. You can consider this as my research note. Just because i hate patent system, does not mean that i do not expect attributions, only i hate it using for commercial profit. Just remember that.
@ /.\----+----------------------------+ / \| I think others have better | | work to do other than free | | loading ! | +----------------------------+ +-----------------------+---- ( me ) | May be, May be not ! | +-----------------------+
We folks love our curiosity, and we cannot deny it. We cannot even properly regulate it, which is both our gift and curse - which will fit for humans in general. So, with the rise in Commons based Peer Production, Co-operatives, Co-production, decentralization & democratization of technology that appropriates to people with openness, transparency & liberty to share & propagte, new distributed production is emerging as a significant alternative economy. In its list include, additive & subtrative 3D printing, Laser cutter, modular architecture structures, wood carvers, pcb fabrication units, etc... i think spectrometers along with telescope and other interesting optical instruments would be of great explorative means for curiosity. Pertaining to that, i firmly hope, that we need economic, and easily producible grating that would server as a key part in spectrophotometer. Current industrial mass production, planning to integrate a spectrophotometer in battery operated mobile devices using extreme miniaturization technologies, would again make the technology non transparent, non-technical barriers, centralization, etc..
Along with other communities like Public lab, i hope that the importance of such instruments would soon be promulgated to a wider public than a group of hackers and independent researchers. This in turn had pushed me to atleast ideate to create a seed device that would serve making a other instrument. To know about spectroscopy in general, my expressions about it, from my research experience, please do look at this post.
Look & Learn
As hackers, & independent researchers, developers, we cannot reject the proprietary solutions that are still working and heavily deployed in the scientific circle. We have to look at them as a black box, which we have done for most of the information technology, and erect alternative solutions & tools, which prove the actual science. Only when transparency and propagation thrives, science sustains, otherwise it is a survivor who constantly fights for its liberty among the monopolizers and proprietary occupiers, that churn out financial benefit from it, like leeches. However, we must not forget the mechanism these leechers practice that make the dumb scientists and engineers to use it. With more and more of them moving towards open technologies, they would react with new attempts to monopolize through other means.
Usually, technological complexity is solved with time, and the cost of democratizing and making it public decreases with time, that increases the availability, and affordability. Instead of posing as a competition while head starting, a best approach would be to fill the local needs and find alternative solutions where the leechers have not spread. We need to learn, what kind of solutions they provide, how they provide, etc.. from them. It is not a bad thing to learn from them. Only by being unbiased in evaluation, knowledge acceptance, we could be more critical and innovative. Current Peer production, Peer 2 Peer sharing, Network effect, Collaborative developemnt, Cooperative building strategies needs to be used effectively.
I have done some market survey (although i am not very much a expert in it or even interested to do it..) from 2012 onward, right after when i got the opportunity to work seriously in the field of spectroscopy that matched my interests and ideas, to know whether any existing procducts are available or not. To my surprise, after the recent development in DLP and miniature opto-electronics, several proprietary companies in the food technology and process analytical technology have been releasing spectrometers that are hand held, miniature, robust, portable, ... with all attractive features, and some even offering the whole data analytics, and networking stack that targeted the research community.
However, i find that the following few have been really into it consumer spectroscopy, each with its own marketing strategies and advertisements.
- SCIO- Consumer Physics | consumer gadgeting
- Tellspec | Consumer gadgeting
- ... other industrial heavy weight champions that supply for scientific community
For me, personally both are not worthy in spreading the science and technology in a sustainable way. When it comes to food, everybody eats it, and anybody can be persuaded to be health conscious and thus in turn could generate a social capital that craves for such technology, in todays health conscious population, that lives a terribly bad life style, within a terrible environment conditions consuming terrible factory foods, under a treadmilled - perpetuated - vicious cycle. Both provides suitable example, how not to make a commons product. However, there is always something to learn from such products too.
While both having a similar business models, i personally believe, that tellspec inc. have been bumpy during its initial years and i still cannot incline it to it, for its data centralization and patented mathematics approach - that kind of kills the very notion of science and spectroscopy itself. SCIO, is like any other silicon - valley company, seriously considers quality, but completely accepting its proprietary nature, and have always stayed relatively stable in its specifications and show cases. I am not a product designer or a market evaluator to compare both.
What are we currently lacking ?
There are several works which need to be done to find alternatives in open technology realm, pertaining to the spectroscopy field. Some of them are:
- Appropriate design & development thought process
- FOSS based OS for Spectrometer instruments
- CBPP designs for optical devices
- Open Data format, and collective data contribution as spectras
- Quality grading the collaboratively collected data
- Scientific Data sharing means and Network
- Data analysis, Mining, Machine learning stacks
- Spectra to Molecules to Structure to Material Identification - mechanisms
- Aiding molecular modeling with high quality spectral information
- Innovating areas of application for commons of use value
- Survey of necessities where spectroscopy science & tech. can be useful
- Democratizing through Amateur Spectroscopy
- Open data licensing the spectra, and using it for developing & evaluating mining, & machine learning algorithms, tools
How about a Grating Maker ?
With the current technological scenario, affordability plays a significant role in collecting the necessary modules with which the instrument can be constructed based on a reference design. Even though a high end design is avaialble openly, with proper licenses and stuff, who is affordable to make such a costlier design ? Affordability is relative. On the other hand, when the design is economic, and could made affordable to most of the people, using widely available components, then the design sure will be immediately put into use-value. In the case of designing and constructing a spectrometer, with todays high end devices like AOTF/LCTF. needs complex design, and procuring the devices from a very fewly avaiable manufacturer, which increases the cost and allows for monopoly effect.
If there is a design idea, atleast in just a conceptual way, that encourages one to think about hacking the existing devices, leveraging existing mass manufacturing supply chain, and doing it, will surely mark a milestone for such projects. While ruling out the high end optical devices, we turn over to spectrometers with either prism, grating or interferometer techniques to get the wavelength response over a defined spectral bandwidth - coupled with necessary other optical devices. We also do know that CD/DVD's used nowadays as mass secondary storage devices are kind of reduced after wide spread use of USB memory sticks. Nevertheless, hackers use DVD's transparent layer to construct their own transmission grating. These construction are cool, but will never compete with the existing gratings performance. Contradictarily, these DVD's with the same floor area, are available with different storage densities, all due to decreased track width necessary enough to read back the data. This means, that it is competing with the grating density offered by the grating manufacturers.
In the case of new CD/DVD's their topography at the micro/nano scale seems to be of regular pattern. This new CD/DVD's transparent plate can then serve as good grating.
Only difference here is the grooves in the used CD/DVD's are not of regular pattern and are formed based on the data and meta data while burning(recording). What if one can able to change the data encoding electronics to enable record the data such that the grating is formed with regular pattern ? (instead of creating pits and pots). Now the data - a.k.a. pattern which we inscribe is the grating pattern we need. If this is achieved, then using the conventional hacking method, we can make a much better grating or else go one step further, and innovate a complete Grating maker that makes grating on square/rectangular substrate. This requires hardware development from scratch. I believe, making a grating with laser would be much better than making a grating with traditional diamond tip.
Let's say it is available ! SO WHAT ?
What will happen if such a tool is available along with a 3D printer, atleast in a hacker space ? Well, we shall start making gratings. We will churn out making them according to the spectral bandwidth we wish to explore. With CBPP designs and open hardware electronics in hand, we will couple it with handheld style spectrometers, which will finally empower the commons with a spectrometer, that atleast will enable them to capture the spectral data of a material which they point to. At first, this will enable to commonly collect the data, treat it, learn from it, analyze it, and make sense of it. With additional FOSS computing libraries & stacks, machine learning, could be applied. Now, with connectivity in hand, and Open spectrometer in hand, commons finally have a democratized solution which enable them to inspect food, or any other material, atleast before they purchase or share - instead of depending upon layers of food inspectors and super food inspectors..
One might rehack, and attach such an instrument with their telescope, microscope, or with their kitchen appliances like mixers, to study about the chemistry and bio-chemistry happening actively in the food they like to eat. It lets them acquire the nutritional information for the food they make, and let themselves quantify their diet practice instead of blindly depending upon a dumb tabulation of diet, which we do not know why are we advised to eat at first place. Furthermore, all the cheap and non-nutrional, addictive beverages, cold biting drinks, can be checked for their constitutents publicly, which they cannot hide anymore with democratized proof, so that finally commons can able to say NO to their harmful factory foods.
Evenmore, terrace gardeners, home gardeners, farmers, can evaluate their produce which can be evaluated by people whenever they wish. This adds to eradication of disguised organic/natural produce to be rejected by commons. Farmers and gardeners can even test their soil health and fertility by analysing it with such open spectrometers. Certainly these instruments will also help one to evaluate the seed quality. Literally there are thousands and thousands of papers avaialble that prove the effective use of spectrometers for a wider range of uses than i have said here.
Using current Manufacturing structures:
We are seeing a remarkable reduction in usage of optical storage mediums like CD/DVD... which are replaced with other storage mediums like thumb drives, memory cards, offering much higher memory density than a DVD. Instead of phasing out their production, the manufacturing line can be used to make high precision diffraction grating with square/rectangular form factor. These small mediums - which are no more discs, can now be used as diffraction gratings in a personal computer, laptop, workstations, powerful mobile devices, with a suitable interface, that enables and empowers everybody who already have a computing device, to use it not only as a conventional computing, entertainment, and informational appliance, but now really -- i mean really -- as a accurate scientific instrument, which is not possible ever before. With the evolution of open hardware, software, design, it would necessarily serve as a collaborative & cooperative project & service, that has the potential to completely cure the food disasters made by huge chronic profit chasing factory food manufacturers and sales empires. People could finally get a affordable, accessible, open standards based scientific instrument by just tweaking the existing manufacturing lines in a decentralized and equitable fashion.
Providing people the real ownership comes from the psychological fact of making them build themselves as much as possible. In that sense, the mass manufacturing units can reduce its manufacturing potential to just making the substrates, and concentrate more in creating more efficient grating substrates. By redesigning the current CD/DVD optical drives, available already in most of the peoples desktop and laptop computers, it can be repurposed as optical instruments that can printout gratings of necessary specification depending on the use cases and applications. The information required to make the grating from plain substrates can be generated using the computing power of the desktops and laptops hosting the instrument.
Such strategy provides us with following benefits:
- Use the existing Mass manufacturing industry and supply chain
- Hacker community can repurpose the CD/DVD drives as Grating makers with supplied formers
- Repurposing non-operational existing drives creates a local economy
- Founts people ownership over the grating they can produce
- Use existing Free Software and Free Hardware principles to implement the design
- Encourages P2P sharing of gratings, information, analysis reports
- Initiates a scientific temper among commons
- Can be used with existing home science instruments such as telescopes and microscopes
- Will decentralize food and material identification bounded by the limits of instrumentation
- Will further push makers to create their own drives and full stack instruments
- Impetus for decentralized scientific laboratories in homes and computers