Small, inexpensive, hand-held optoelectronic color-measuring devices based on metal-film/dielectric-film interference filters are undergoing development. These color meters could be suitable for use in a variety of applications in which there are requirements to quantify or match colors for aesthetic purposes but there is no need for the high spectral resolution of scientific-grade spectrometers. Such applications typically occur in the paint, printing, and cosmetic industries, for example.

The figure schematically depicts a color meter of this type being used to measure the color of a sample in terms of the spectrum of light reflected from the sample. Light from a white source (for example, a white light-emitting diode) passes through a collimating lens to the sample. Another lens collects some of the light reflected from the sample and focuses the light onto the input end of optical fiber. Light emerging from the output end of the optical fiber illuminates an array of photodetectors covered with metal/dielectric-film interference filters like those described in "Metal/Dielectric-film Interference Color Filters" (NPO-20217), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 23, No. 2 (February 1999), page 70. Typically, these are wide-bandpass filters, as shown at the bottom of the figure.

Several Photodetectors Covered by Filters measure incident light in several wavelength bands. In this example, there are three broad wavelength bands corresponding approximately to the primary additive colors.

The photodetector array need not be of any particular design: it could be something as simple as an assembly containing several photodiodes or something as elaborate as an active-pixel sensor or other imaging device. What is essential is that each of the photodetectors or each of several groups of photodetectors is covered with a metal/dielectric-film filter of a different color. In most applications, it would be desirable to have at least three different filters, each for a spectral band that contains one of the three primary additive red, green, and blue colors. In some applications, it may be necessary to have more than three different color filters in order to characterize subtle differences in color (or in the sensation of color) that cannot be characterized with sufficient precision by use of the primary colors alone.

This work was done by Yu Wang of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to

Innovative Technology Assets Management JPL Mail Stop 202-233 4800 Oak Grove Drive Pasadena
CA 91109-8099 (818) 354-2240 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refer to NPO-30858.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Hand-Held Color Meters Based on Interference Filters

(reference NPO30858) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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