We have been using an inexpensive, simple, versatile optical bench and mounts (similar to the ones used in the Optical Institute, University of Rochester) for optical components for the past several years, and as a result of the interest visitors to our laboratory have expressed over this system, we felt that it should be described in some detail in the open literature. The optical benches consisted simply of flat steel plates (although several sizes have been used, convenient sizes are 4 [to 8]ft × 2 [to 4]ft × ½ in. [to 1 in.] thick). Building vibrations are minimal if the plates are supported by rubber stoppers placed under each corner of the plate. We obtained all of our steel plates from government surpluses for a few dollars and then sanded the surfaces to remove rust. All optical components were mounted with inexpensive movable quick release magnetic mounts (for example, type 5-716U magnetic mounts from National Camera, Englewood, Colo.); these mounts cost only a few dollars and have an attracting force of 40 lb in the "on" position (other amounts with a greater attracting force can also be purchased). Over a period of months, no significant creepage of motor-operated components, e.g., mechanical choppers, occurred. Alignment of optical components can be achieved in a matter of a few minutes with the assistance of a low power (¼-mW) He-Ne laser and with height reference markers (several "X" -inscribed glass squares set at equal heights, and small front surface mirrors. If components are to be changed quite often, triangular optical benches, held with magnetic mounts, can be used. Because of the simplicity of moving and aligning components, it is possible to convert from an atomic absorption spectrometer to an atomic fluorescence spectrometer in a matter of minutes as compared to hours or even days if components are held in place with screws, cement, etc. A photograph of one of our atomic fluorescence spectrometers mounted on a steel plate is shown in Fig. 1. We feel plate optical benches with magnetic mounts are ideal for spectroscopic research and as a result have three other systems besides the one in Fig. 1 in use in our laboratory.

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