Portable PLA Spectrometer



UCSC Waste Management conducts audits on contents of residential recycling bins on campus in order to analyze the amount of specific plastics within the waste stream and sort out non-recyclable plastics from the recycling bins. These audits would be easier to conduct with a portable spectrometer which could identify the different types of plastics, but available devices are both expensive and cumbersome to carry, making them impractical for UCSC Waste Management.

The goal of this project is to design a portable and low cost ATR-IR (Attenuated Total Reflection-Infrared) spectrometer that can be produced at a price affordable to the UCSC Waste Management team, while still being able to differentiate the non-recyclable clear plastic, PLA, from the three most common residential clear plastics: PET, HDPE, and PP.


3-D Rendering of Implemented System


Isometric view without top lid, showing internal components



Side View of Optics Subsystem


Team Members:

Darius Rudominer: 5th year Robotics major responsible for designing the optics system and the exterior case. Integrated both components with power subsystem, and assisted with ripple analysis and served as Optics and Financial Lead for the team.


Stephanie Hernandez Z. : Electrical Engineering major with knowledge of optics and analog circuits. Team Progress Lead that aided in backend spectrometer design and power subsystem design. 


Sarah Ramirez: Fourth year robotics engineer, team lead, and focused on the optical system of the device and its transition into the digital components. Was also responsible for finalizing noise and temperature analysis for both systems.


Chris Massiello: Electrical Engineering major with background in programming and embedded systems. Documentation Lead that was responsible for choosing and programming the microcontroller to control the spectrometer system based on user interaction.



Dante Paquin: Fifth year Electrical Engineering major with background in embedded design. Served as  Documentation Co-Lead, handled bluetooth integration, and led PCB layout and design.

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