PAR / Spectrum analyzer

I’ve been working on an off for a while on a project to measure photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) as well as analyze electromagnetic spectrum with the same sensor, at the same time. The spectrum in question is approximately 350-750nm. I mainly envisioned this tool for use with marine aquariums, and if things were going better I probably would have built a prototype.


The sensor is a TAOS TSL3301CL. It is a 102-pixel photodiode array with a serial interface. The sensor contains analog stages for gain and offset as well as ADCs that sample the values and read the results to the serial port. It’s a nice device, but I haven’t been able to get what I want out of it. The response for me has been very non-linear. It’s also a very tiny leadless package so it’s not easy to work with.


For reference, that is a 0.1″ header

My plan was to enclose the sensor in a housing with a series of lenses designed to introduce chromatic aberration or a prism to refract the captured ambient light, and then direct the spectral components of the light towards the sensor. The sensor’s response to wavelength is non-linear, but that can be corrected with a function in software for each pixel.

I had a uOLED 128×128 pixel display that I used to display the intensity of light for each pixel. This worked well, and I would have used an averaging function to estimate PAR from that data.


However, I haven’t been able to get the sensor to respond in what I consider a linear fashion. It is mostly on or off. Moving the light source back and forth from the sensor doesn’t result in any gradient that could be considered measurable. I’ve tried various gain and offset levels, as well as long and short integration times but with no success.

I originally tested it with an mbed, but I had trouble with the sensor’s synchronous clock. So I ported the code to the mega2560 on my STK600. About that time the display started to die and I don’t have another graphic display at the moment without messing around with an Epson S1D1335 and another graphics library… As such I’m stashing this project for now. If anyone has worked with these sensors before and knows what I’m doing wrong, I’d like to hear from you.

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Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 Electronics

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