ChromatograDIY: Open-Source Chromatography Effort

Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/2124
Funded on 4/03/14
Successfully Funded
  • $1,427
  • 118%
  • Funded
    on 4/03/14

About This Project

ChromatograDIY is a Gas Chromatograph I am building from scratch. I am using open-source firmware and software for electronic equipment control/data acquisition such as Arduino-based micro-controllers and OpenChrom software. I am documenting all the steps I take to achieve this on the blog ChromatograDIY. Parts manufactured are built at the non-profit makerspace TX/Rx Labs in Houston, where I am a member with a rented workspace.

Ask the Scientists

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What is the context of this research?

ChromatograDIY came about from my readings and interest in the
open-source micro-controller revolution taking place. At first I had dreams of drones, and tweeting toasters, and GPS possibilities. Then I remembered my 15+ yrs as a chemical technician, and the enjoyment I got from R&D and Analytical work. I absolutely love science and my favorite environment is a laboratory. I remembered my college education, and the antiquated equipment we were forced to learn on, if it worked at all. At most we learned theory. But there is no experience like hands-on technical working knowledge of laboratory equipment you will work with every day.

What is the significance of this project?

I aim to bring down the costs of many types of laboratory equipment. While they might not be as precise or high tech as your $25K piece of equipment you may one day work on, why not start learning, HANDS-ON, the theory, operation, sample preparation techniques, method development, and the inner workings of the hardware at 20-30% of the cost? Hardware that is affordable to educational facilities to the point that hands-on is promoted, simply because repairs can be cheap, and open-source equipment makes repairs available to anyone. And repairs are inevitable if the equipment is being heavily used, by beginners. But that is the point. Also I see a great need for this equipment in small business, particularly R&D start-ups. They may be constrained both in time and money to produce data for investors. Cheaper equipment means MORE equipment, which means more data. A win-win for small research facilities under pressure to produce. And last, but not least, I see this endeavor supporting research in third-world countries, where much of the equipment is simply cost-prohibitive, stymieing even the start of possible research and business opportunities. Please wish me luck in this collaboration of new ideas and past experience and we may ALL benefit in the future.

What are the goals of the project?

Build a fully documented open-source Gas Chromatograph. I have been buying controller boards and making progress with code and open-source libraries of code. I have just received a proposition of collaboration from a fine electrician TX/Rx member who also has GC experience and from a circuit board designer and manufacturer and coder here at TX/Rx Labs. This hugely impacts the ability for this all to happen in a quality and less time-intensive manner. Once the first prototype is built, I will do another Funding to build 5 GCs of which I will donate 2 to schools, 2 to small business, and keep one for validation while we find kinks and make updates in an open-source community style.


  • $300Microcontroller parts
  • $200Flow controllers
  • $100Heaters/Fans
  • $300PCB manufacture
  • $200Steel parts and plates for manufacture and milling
  • $250Column
  • $150Gas cylinders (Gas & Rental)
  • $1301 month TX/Rx Labs Benchspace rental

All funding will go towards purchasing parts from which the chromatograph will be assembled.

Most of the circuit boards will be purchased from Adafruit, they have an extensive supply of boards and parts. Almost every part comes with tutorials and everything is open-source. Other sites that are just as important for this project are are and Github.

One month of membership (including dedicated workbench) is being included as I do ALL my work at the greatest makerspace/hackerspace in Houston: TX/Rx Labs A Stretch Goal has been added to support the building of a 2nd prototype instead of just one since the 2nd Goal will be to give a GC to a local college for validation work.

Endorsed by

Gas Chromatographs are expensive pieces of equipment because they are primarily marketed at research labs that have both funding and a need for analytical precision. Unfortunately many colleges (let alone high schools) don't have the funding for GCs or other similar instruments. This is why I support Richard's efforts at DIY instrumentation, so that students can not only learn to use a GC, but also build one themselves and gain a more full understanding of the chemistry and technology that drives Chemistry forward.
chris cauley
I am excited about the open-source GC. This will be fantastic for education and for the experimentalist. I hope this will only be the first of a series of open-source lab instruments.
Mark Sullivan
Mark Sullivan

Meet the Team

Richard Arnett
Richard Arnett


University of Houston - Chemistry Major (dropped out in favor of more focused two-yr degree at HCC)
Houston Community College - Associate in Applied Chemical Technology
Shell Development (Westhollow Research Center)- R&D on de-nitrogenation & de-sulfurization of diesel fuels
Chevron Chemical (Kingwood)- Analytical on polymer research
Dow Chemical (Freeport)- R&D and Analytical in polyurethanes research