• Exploring Quantum Physics through Hands-on Projects - David and Shanni Prutchi. Most of the content on this site is designed to complement this book, not replace it. So I would highly recommend picking up a copy as it contains a lot of information that I won’t cover here. Also take a look at their website as it contains quite a bit of supplementary information.

  • Building Scientific Apparatus - John H. Moore, Christopher C. Davis, Michael A. Coplan, Sandra C. Greer. This book contains general info on everything about building apparatus; fabricating, vacuum, electronics, optics and more. Although it is not super in depth on any of the topics it does give you a good overview.

  • Introduction to Solid State Chemistry - Donald Sadoway, MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Don’t let the title fool you, this isn’t your father’s first year chemistry course. Sadoway is an amazing lecturer who really makes the material come alive. Lectures 1-14 cover quantum theory and condensed matter physics. The lectures on organic and biochemistry are also fantastic.

  • Modern Physics: From The Atom to Big Science - Cathryn Carson, Berkley Department of History. This is a truly unique course that digs into the history of physics starting with Newton and on into the 21st century. She does a masterful job of explaining the relevant physics as well as the social and political context. I’ve listened to these over and over and glean something new each time. I’ve found that understanding the historical development and the people involved make learning the technical details much more fun and interesting. The discussion on radiation and quantum physics in lectures 12-15 and 20-26 is highly relevant to the content on this site.

  • Fundamentals of Physics II - Ramamurti Shankar. This lecture series covers E&M and quantum physics. Shankar really does a fantastic job of breaking these concepts down so they are easy to understand. This is the second part of the lecture series Fundamentals of Physics I which covers classical concepts and relativity.

  • Theoretical Concepts in Physics - Malcolm Longair. This fantastic text takes you through the history of physics, closely examining a number pivotal theories and their development. Chapters 11-15 on quantum theory are highly relevant to the content on this site.

  • Richard Feynman: Fun to Imagine - And of course some Feynman for inspiration!

  • Silicon Thermal Oxide Thickness Calculator - Tool for determining oxide thickness on an Si substrate.

Materials & Supplies

Finding and purchasing materials & supplies can be challenging. The most cost effective approach is to buy surplus and eBay has been the best place I’ve found for it. The following are a few tips for shopping for surplus on eBay:

  • Use the eBay RSS feeds to keep on top of new listings. Do a search on eBay and then tack on &_rss=1 to the url and it will return RSS for that search. You can then use a feed reader or other method to keep up with new listings. I personally use IFTTT to post to a private twitter feed that I follow.

  • When listings have a Make Offer option don’t be afraid to make a really low offer, even up to 80%. Some sellers are just trying to move surplus and are not necessarily sure how much its worth. Not every seller will go low but its always worth a try. I regularly get fantastic deals this way.

  • Use the OR syntax when doing searches. One example of this is looking for KF style vacuum fittings as they can be called NW, QF or KF. The OR notation is a comma separated list surrounded by parenthesis. So if I wanted to search for a KF-25 tee I could search (qf,kf,nw) 25 tee and it will return all results no matter what the seller called it.

  • Make sure the seller will do a DOA return.

If you can’t find what you need surplus then you’re stuck buying new. For common items I’ve found both eBay and Amazon to be invaluable. Amazon even has an industrial and scientific department. I usually compare prices on those two sites.


Some vendors like Ace Glass and Kurt J. Lesker will only sell to businesses or will not ship to residential addresses. Despite these restrictions you may be able to get an account with these vendors and have them ship to your home address. You will need to fill out the new account form on their website and submit it. They require a business name and I just use the business name I do occasional consulting with, though its not an official business with a tax id. They will respond saying they only sell to businesses or don’t ship to residential addresses and they ask for some proof that you are a business, like your tax id number. Call the rep (It’s better than emailing) and explain that you are working on a project, what the project is and ask them if there is any way to purchase from them despite the restrictions. They may be flexible with you if they feel confident you are not trying to export or do something illegal. If you are not able to setup an account with them, ask if there is a reseller you can buy from or try contacting their regional sales rep and explain your situation as they might be better able to get you setup with an account.

  • Kurt J. Lesker - Sells all things vacuum. You can find a lot of Lesker items on eBay but you may need to order from them directly. They have account restrictions, see above.
  • Ace Glass - Sells laboratory glassware. In particular, internally threaded glassware and components that can be easily put together to build vacuum chambers. You can also find quite a bit of their products on eBay. They have account restrictions, see above.
  • Ideal Vacuum Products - Sells a wide range of vacuum components. If you can’t find it on eBay they probably have it.
  • Information Unlimited - Has a large selection of high voltage equipment, components and other interesting items.
  • Ocean Optics - Makers of miniature USB spectrometers. These can be found on eBay for a fraction of the cost.