Use sound card for science experiments

EFFICIENT SOUND CARD BASED EXPERIMENTION AT DIFFERENT LEVELS OF NATURAL SCIENCE EDUCATION paper tells that sound cards can be turned into measurement tools, making science experimentation very efficient and cheap. Sound-card experimentation becomes really viable only if we demonstrate how to connect different sensors to the sound card and provide suitable open-source software to support the experiments. This paper present a few applications of sound cards in measurements: photogates, stopwatches and temperature measurement. The writers also provide the software for these applications.

Here is one good example circuit idea from the paper:


Phototransistors and photoresistors can be directly connected to the microphone input. The photodetector and the sound card’s internal resistor R and Vbias voltage forms a light-controlled voltage divider, therefore a voltage pulse can be measured, if the light beam is blocked from the detector. The soundcard mic input capacitor C blocks all the DC component from the input signal, but all signal changes can be easily detected from the recorded sound signal.


Sub-$10 sound card photogate variants page gives some ideas how you can easily build your own photogates.


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  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Sound Card Tachometer Rises From the Junkbox

    An IR break beam sensor from an old printer was a perfect fit in an aluminum tube.

    Measuring the RPM of the device under test is simply a matter of determining the frequency of the signal and multiplying by 60. A 400 Hz signal would correspond to a shaft turning at 24,000 RPM.

    This is due to the AC coupled nature of sound cards. As the signal approaches DC, the waveform will become more distorted.

  6. carolina says:

    Thanks for this article which I think will be helpful for me.


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