7B10.10 - Spectral Lines/Spectroscopy - Emission Lines

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Spectral Lines/Spectroscopy - Emission Lines
Spectra of Various Gases, Spectral Lines of Elements
Area of Study:
Optics, Astronomy
Discharge Tubes: Hydrogen; Helium; Mercury; Neon, Diffraction Grating (Large 4"X6"), Video Camera with Power Supply, Close-Up Lens for Video Camera, and Discharge Tube Power Supply.

See also 7B10.10 in Modern Physics.

Emission spectra can be shown by putting a discharge tube in front of the 4 X 6 inch grating and focusing the camera onto the grating.  This may be set on either the optics bench or directly onto a table as shown.

  • James Lincoln, "The Lyman and Paschen Series of Hydrogen – Trying to See Invisible Light", TPT, Vol. 57, #5, May 2019, p. 348.
  • Robert Hobbs, "Displaying Diverse Spectra Using a Thin White Line Screen (TWLS)", TPT, Vol. 56, #9, Dec. 2018, p. 603. 
  • Colin S. Wallace, Edward E. Prather, Seth D. Hornstein, Jack O. Burns, Wayne M. Schlingman, and Timothy G. Chambers, "A New Lecture-Tutorial for Teaching about Molecular Excitations and Synchrotron Radiation", TPT, Vol. 54, #1, Jan. 2016, p. 40. 
  • David Sitar, "Imaging Emission Spectra with Handheld and Cellphone Cameras", TPT, Vol. 50, #9, Dec. 2012, p. 524.
  • Mary Bridget Kustusch, Jon D. H. Gaffney, and Robert Beichner, "The Real Prize Inside: Learning About Science and Spectra from Cereal Boxes", TPT, Vol. 47, #7, Oct. 2009, p. 450.
  • M. Farooq Wahab, "Estimating the Wavelength of Sodium Emission in Flame - The Easy Way", TPT, Vol. 47, #6, Sept. 2009, p. 367.
  • Bruce C. Palmquist, "Interactive Spectra Demonstration", TPT, Vol. 40, #3, Mar. 2002, p. 140.
  • Donald F. Collins, "Video Spectroscopy - Emission, Absorption, and Flash", TPT, Vol. 38, #9, Dec. 2000, p. 561.
  • Samuel M. Sampere, "The Neon Sign", TPT, Vol. 37, #3, Mar. 1999, p. 140.
  • Michael C. Lo Presto, "A Closer Look at the Spectrum of Helium", TPT, Vol. 36, #3, Mar. 1998, p. 172.
  • David  Thompson, "Three Everyday Examples of Quantization", TPT, Vol. 36, #2, Feb. 1998, p. 92.
  • Gary Kessler, "Recycle Outmoded Air - Track Components", TPT, Vol. 33, #7, Oct. 1995, p. 473.
  • R. B. Knollenberg, III, "A Real Spectrum Chart", TPT, Vol. 31, #3, Mar. 1993, p. 187.
  • Vittorio Zanetti and John Harris, "Spectra of Three Light Sources with a CD", TPT, Vol. 31, #2, Feb. 1993, p. 82.
  • John W. Jewett, "Get The LED Out", TPT, Vol. 29, #8, Nov. 1991, p. 530.
  • Zofia Goalb-Meyer, "'Piekara's Chair': Mechanical Model for Atomic Energy Levels", TPT, Vol. 29, #4, Apr. 1991, p. 215.
  • Frank A. Smith, Jr., "Lecture-Demonstration Comparison of Two Spectra", TPT, Vol. 24, #5, May 1986, p. 284.
  • Robert Gardner and Stanley Ballard, "Why are Some Lines in the Hydrogen Spectrum Brighter than Others?", TPT, Vol. 16, #4, Apr. 1978, p. 244.
  • Lee R. Anderson, "Spectra Comparisons", TPT, Vol. 11, #7, Oct. 1973, p. 435.
  • Herbert H. Gottlieb, "Determining Light Wavelengths Individually by Use of One Spectral Source for the Class", TPT, Vol. 4, #8, Nov. 1966, p. 376.
  • William F. Meggers, "Spectra Inform Us About Atoms", TPT, Vol. 2, #7, Oct. 1964, p. 303.
  • Nina Abramzon and P. B. Siegel, "Introductory Helium Atomic Spectrum Analysis", AJP, Vol. 77, #10, Oct. 2009, p. 920.
  • M. Vollmer, "Hot Gases: The Transition from Line Spectrum to Thermal Radiation", AJP, Vol. 73, #3, Mar. 2005, p. 215.
  • Robert de Levie, "On Deconvolving Spectra", AJP, Vol. 72, #7, July 2004, p. 910.
  • Anne L. Boreen, Renae L. Coons, Darin J. Ulness, and Bryan A. Luther, "Investigating Collisional Broadening of Spectral Lines Using a Tuning Fork: An Undergraduate Laboratory", AJP, Vol. 68, #8, Aug. 2000, p. 768.
  • G. B. Bianchetti and S. Ganci, "A Demonstration Experiment to Display Diffraction Patterns on an Oscilloscope", AJP, Vol. 54, #3, Mar. 1986, p. 283.
  • Steven K. Blau, "Frequency Combs Help Untangle Astrophysical Spectra", Physics Today, Vol. 61, #10, Oct. 2008, p. 24.
  • "O-520: Concave Mirror", DICK and RAE Physics Demo Notebook.
  • "O-510: Aperture - Line or Other Image", DICK and RAE Physics Demo Notebook.
  • Doug Balmer, "Identifying Mercury in Fluorescent Light Bulbs", The Caliper, Vernier Software & Technology, Fall 2017, p.6.
  • Richard Manliffe Sutton, "A-11", Demonstration Experiments in Physics.
  • Wallace A. Hilton, "S-1", Experiments in Optical Physics, p. 48.
  • Jearl Walker, "The Spectra of Streetlights Illuminate Basic Principles of Quantum Mechanics", The Amateur Scientist, Jan. 1984.
  • "This Day in Physics History: December 1910: Neon Lights Debut at Paris Motor Show", APS News, Dec. 2015, p. 2, 3.
  • "This Day in Physics History: August 18 and October 20, 1868: Discovery of Helium", APS News, #8 & 9, 2014, p. 2, 3.
  • "Experiment 21 Spectrum of Atomic Hydrogen", Vernier Software & Technology, p. 21-1 - 21-6.
  • Richard Born, "A Quantitative Investigation of the Helium Spectrum", Vernier, March 2014.
  • John L. Roeder, Activity 10, "Energy Levels in Atomic Systems ", Teaching About Energy, p. 140.
  • David Kutliroff, "17, Spectroscopy Demonstration with Large Grating", 101 Classroom Demonstrations and Experiments For Teaching Physics, p. 44.
  • Borislaw Bilash II and David Maiullo, "Emission Spectra", A Demo a Day: A Year of Physics Demonstrations, p. 362.
  • Yaakov Kraftmakher, "4.9, Hydrogen Atom", Experiments and Demonstrations in Physics, ISBN 981-256-602-3, p. 277.
  • Isaac Asimov, "What Are Little Stars Made Of", Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, p. 125.
  • Robert Ehrlich, "Diffraction-Grating Sheets", Turning the World Inside Out, p. 203 - 204.
  • Ron Hipschman, "Spectra", Exploratorium Cookbook II, p. 131.1 - 131.3.
  • "Spectroscopy", The New Illustrated - Science & Invention Encyclopedia, p. 2528 - 2532.
  • C. Harvey Palmer, "Experiment D2: The Grating Spectrometer", Optics - Experiments and Demonstrations, John Hopkins Press, 1962.
  • "A Study of Spectra", Selective Experiments in Physics, CENCO, 1962.
  • W. Bolton, "The Hydrogen Spectrum", Book 3 - Atomic Physics, Physics Experiments and Projects, 1968, p. 29.
  • W. Bolton, "Qualitative Spectroscopy", Book 2 - Waves and Particles, Physics Experiments and Projects, 1968, p. 44.
  • Borislaw Bilash II, “Emission Spectra“, A Demo A Day – A Year of Physical Science Demonstrations, p. 113.

Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.