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Data Acquisition and analysis for Physics education with Raspberry Pi

This is the English version of the documentation.

For German readers:
Die deutsche Version dieses Dokuments findet sich unter dem Link bzw. README_de.pdf .

This python3 code provides some basic functionality for data acquisition and visualisation like data logger, bar-chart, XY- or oscilloscope display and data recording on disk.

In addition to the GPIO inputs/outputs of the Raspberry Pi, the analogue-to-digital converters ADS1115 and MCP3008 and PicoScope USB-oscilloscopes are supported as input devices for analogue data, as well as a number of digital sensors using protocols like I²C or SPI.

The package provides an abstraction layer for measurement devices and sensors connected to a Raspberry Pi. Dedicated classes for each device provide a simple, unified interface, containing only the methods init(<config_dictionary>), acquireData(buffer) and closeDevice(). Simple examples with minimalist code illustrate the usage. The graphical user interface and the script provide a configurable environment for more complex measurements.

Fig. 1: Visualisation of the time dependence of two signals connected to an ADC Figure 1

Quick-start guide

After installation - see below - a number of unified classes for data acquisition, visualisation and recording is available from the sub-directory ./phypidaq. Each supported device needs a specific configuration, which is read from configuration files in sub-directory ./config. The overall configuration is given in files of type .daq, specifying which devices and display modules to use, the readout rate, calibrations or analytical formulae to be applied to recorded data, or ranges and axis labels of the graphical output.

The graphical user interface aids in the administration of the configuration options and can be used to start data acquisition. In this case, configurations and produced data files are stored in a dedicated sub-directory in $HOME/PhyPi. The sub-directory name is derived from a user-defined tag and the current date and time.

Data acquisition may also be started via the command line: <config_file_name>.daq

If no configuration file is given, the default PhyPiConf.daq is used.

The sub-directory ./examples contains a number of simple python scripts illustrating the usage of data acquisition and display modules with minimalist code.

Configuration files for PhyPiDAQ

The script allows users to perform very general measurement tasks without the need to write custom code. The options for configuration of input devices and their channels as well as for the display and data storage modules are specified in a global configuration file of type .daq (in yaml markup language), which contains references to device configuration files of type .yaml.

Main configuration file

A typical, commented example of the main configuration file is shown below. Note that text following a ''#''-sign is ignored and contains descriptive comments or alternatives.

file PhyPiConf.daq

# -- Configuration Options for PhyPiDAQ 
# --------------------------------------

# -- configuration files for hardware devices 
DeviceFile: config/ADS1115Config.yaml    # 16 bit ADC, I2C bus
# optional: 
#DeviceFile: config/MCP3008Config.yaml   # 10 bit ADC, SPI bus
#DeviceFile: config/MCP3208Config.yaml   # 12 bit ADC, SPI bus
#DeviceFile: config/groveADCConfig.yaml  # 12 bit ADC on grove RPI shield
#DeviceFile: config/PSConfig.yaml        # PicoTechnology USB scope 
#DeviceFile: config/MAX31865Config.yaml  # Pt 100 sensor
#DeviceFile: config/GPIOCount.yaml       # frequency count
#DeviceFile: config/DS18B20Config.yaml   # digital temperature sensor
#DeviceFile: config/MAX31855Config.yaml  # thermo element
#DeviceFile: config/BMP180Config.yaml    # pressure/temperature sensor
#DeviceFile: config/INA219Config.yaml    # Voltage/Current sensor
#DeviceFile: config/MMA845xConfig.yaml   # Accelerometer 
#DeviceFile: config/VL53LxConfig.yaml    # ToF distance sensor 

## an example of multiple devices
#DeviceFile: [config/ADS1115Config.yaml, config/GPIOCount.yaml]  

# Demo options:
#DeviceFile: ToyDataConfig.yaml          # simulated data
#DeviceFile: config/ReplayConfig.yaml    # data from File

# -- configuration options for Channels 
ChanLabels: [U, U]                 # names for channels 
ChanUnits: [V, V]                  # units for channels 
ChanColors: [darkblue, sienna]     # channel colours in display

# eventually overwrite Channel Limits obtained from device config 
## - [0., 1.]   # chan 0
## - [0., 1.]   # chan 1
## - [0., 1.]   # chan 2

# calibration of channel values
#  - null    or  - <factor> or  - [ [ <true values> ], [ <raw values> ] ]
#  - 1.                       # chan0: simple calibration factor
#  - [ [0.,1.], [0., 1.] ]    # chan1: interpolation: [true]([<raw>] )
#  - null                     # chan2: no calibration

# apply formulae to (calibrated) channel values
#  - c0 + c1  # chan0
#  - c1          # chan1
#  - null        # chan2 : no formula

# -- configuration options for graphical display 
Interval: 0.1                # logging interval         
#NHistoryPoints: 120          # number of points used in history buffer
DisplayModule: DataLogger    # history of channel signals
#DisplayModule: DataGraphs    # text, bar-graph, history and xy-view
#DisplayModule: null          # no graphical display 
#Title: Demo                  # display title
#XYmode:     false            # enable/disable XY-display
## if more than two channels active:
#Chan2Axes: [0, 1, 0]         # assign channels to axes
#xyPlots:                     # define which axes to show 
# - [0, 1]                    #  in xy-plot
# - [0, 2]
# - [1, 2]

# -- start in running or paused mode
# startActive: true  # start in running mode

# -- configuration options for output to file 
#DataFile:   testfile.csv     # file name for output file, 
DataFile:   null              #  null to disable 
#CSVseparator: ';'            # field separator, set to ';' for German Excel   

# enable buffering of latest data (depth NHistoryPoints from above)
#bufferData: PhyPiData    # file name to track latest data and eventually 
#bufferData: null         #  store them, or null to switch off  
# enable output to fifo (a linux pipe) to send data to other processes
DAQfifo: null
#DAQfifo: PhyPiDAQ.fifo

Device configuration files

Typical, commented examples of device configurations are shown below. The device configuration file for the analogue-to-digital converter ADS1115 specifies the active channels, their ranges and single or differential operation modes.

file ADS1115Config.yaml

# example of a configuration file for ADC ADS1115

DAQModule: ADS1115Config    # phypidaq module to be loaded

ADCChannels: [0, 3]         # active ADC-Channels
                        # possible values: 0, 1, 2, 3
                        # when using differential mode:
                        #    -  0 = ADCChannel 0 
                        #            minus ADCChannel 1
                        #    -  1 = ADCChannel 0 
                        #            minus ADCChannel 3
                        #    -  2 = ADCChannel 1 
                        #            minus ADCChannel 3
                        #    -  3 = ADCChannel 2 
                        #            minus ADCChannel 3

DifModeChan: [true, true] # enable differential mode for Channels

Gain: [2/3, 2/3]          # programmable gain of ADC-Channel
                          #   possible values for Gain:
                          #     - 2/3 = +/-6.144V
                          #     -   1 = +/-4.096V
                          #     -   2 = +/-2.048V
                          #     -   4 = +/-1.024V
                          #     -   8 = +/-0.512V
                          #     -  16 = +/-0.256V
sampleRate: 860           # programmable Sample Rate of ADS1115
                          #    possible values for SampleRate: 
                          #    8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 250, 475, 860

The USB-oscilloscope PicoScope can also be used as data logger. In this case the average of a large number of measurements at high rate is taken. Choosing a measurement time of 20 ms very effectively eliminates 50 Hz noise.

file PSconfig.yaml

# example of a configuration file for PicoScope 2000 Series

DAQModule: PSConfig

PSmodel: 2000a

# channel configuration 
picoChannels: [A, B]
ChanRanges: [2., 2.]
ChanOffsets: [-1.95, -1.95]
ChanModes: [DC, DC]
sampleTime: 2.0E-02
Nsamples: 100

# oscilloscope trigger
trgActive: false  # true to activate
trgChan: A
#trgThr: 0.1
#pretrig: 0.05
#trgTyp: Rising
#trgTO: 1000  # time-out

# internal signal generator 
# frqSG: 100.E+3 # put 0. do disable
frqSG: 0.

Examples of other devices like the analog-to-digital converter MCP3008, of rate measurements via the GPIO pins of the Raspberry Pi or temperature measurements with the 1-wire digital thermometer DS18B20, PT100 sensors and the resistance-to-digital converter MAX31865 or thermocouples and the thermocouple-to-digital converter MAX31855 are also contained in the configuration directory, see files MCP3008Config.yaml, GPIOcount.yaml, DS18B20Config.yaml , MAX31865Config.yaml or MAX31855Config.yaml, respectively.

Installation of PhyPiDAQ on a Raspberry Pi

Get PhyPiDAQ code and dependencies

After setting up your Raspberry pi with the most recent version of the Debian Release stretch, enter the following commands in the console window:

mkdir git
cd git
git clone

For your convenience, the script installs all components needed for PhyPiDAQ. Simply execute the script once on the command line (without text after #):

cd ~/git/PhyPiDAQ  # change to installation directory 
git pull           # eventually update to latest version of PhyPiDAQ

The installation is now done and PhyPiDAQ is ready to be used.

The last part of the inatallation procedure is also valid to update an exiting verion of PhyPiDAQ .

To test the installaion without connected hardware or on a system other than the Raspberry Pi, PhyPiDAQ may be started in demo-mode:

cd ~/git/PhyPiDAQ  # change to installation directory
./     # execute with configuration PhyPiDemo.daq



PhyPiDAQ is meant to be an educational tool. Confronting students with the full contents of this package is therefore not appropriate. Instead, it is recommended to create a working directory and copy examples from there to the student's working directory. This is achieved via the following commands:

# create PhyPi working directory and make examples and config files available
cd ~/git/PhyPiDAQ

# provide icon to graphical user interface
cp ~/git/PhyPiDAQ/phypi.desktop ~/Desktop

You might also consider moving the PhyPiDAQ package to system space, e.g. /usr/local:

sudo mv ~/git/PhyPiDAQ /usr/local/

Please note that the paths in the example above must be adjusted in this case, e.g. ´~/git/` -> /usr/local/. The paths in ~/Desktop/phypi.desktop must also be changed appropriately. This is most easily achieved by right-clicking the icon and use the dialog "Properties".

Dependencies on external packages

The PhyPiDAQ package relies on code from other packages providing the drivers for the supported devices and libraries for data visualisation:

For convenience, installation files for external packages and for modules of this package in pip wheel format are provided in sub-directory ./installlibs.

The visualization modules depend on matplotlib.pyplot, Tkinter and pyQt5, which must also be installed.

For completeness, the steps performed by the script are documented here:

# script

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install python3-scipy
sudo apt-get install python3-matplotlib
sudo apt-get install python3-pyqt5
sudo apt-get install libatlas-base-dev # needed by latest version of numpy
sudo pip3 install pyyaml
# pyhton drivers for sensors and devices
sudo pip3 install installlibs/whl/*.whl
# install drivers for PicoScope 2000 and 2000B 
sudo dpkg -i installlibs/picoscopelibs/*.deb

sudo usermod -a -G tty pi # USB access for user pi

The drivers for PicoScope oscilloscopes may also be installed from the repository of the vendor, which is included as follows:

  1. Open file /etc/apt/sources.list by sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list.
  2. Use arrow keys to navigate to the next free line and add entry deb picoscope main to /etc/apt/sources.list.
  3. Save file /etc/apt/sources.list by Ctrl + O and Enter.
  4. Close /etc/apt/sources.list by Ctrl + X.

Now the drivers for drivers for the various PicoScope devices can be included end eventually updated with apt-get:

wget -O - | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install libps2000
sudo apt-get install libps2000a

# allow access of user pi to usb port
sudo usermod -a -G tty pi

Overview of files contained in PhyPiDAQ


    run data acquisition and display modules as specified in configuration files (default PhyPiConf.daq and .yaml files ins subdirectory config/)
    graphical user interface to edit configuration files and start the script


  • phypidaq/
    initialisation for package phypidaq

  • phypidaq/
    version info for package phypidaq

  • phypidaq/
    class for handling of analog-to-digital converter ADS1115

  • phypidaq/
    class analog-to-digital converter MCP3008

  • phypidaq/
    class for current and voltage sensor INA219

  • phypidaq/
    class for handling of digital thermometer DS18B20

  • phypidaq/
    class for the digital temperature and pressure sensors BMP180/280 or BME280

  • phypidaq/
    class for the digital accelerometer MMA8451

  • phypidaq/
    class for reading rates from GPIO pins

  • phypidaq/
    class for MAX31855 thermocouple-to-digital converter

  • phypidaq/
    class for MAX31865 resistance-to-digital converter

  • phypidaq/
    class for PicoScope USB oscilloscopes

  • phypidaq/VL53LxConfig
    class for VL53L1X distance sensor

  • phypidaq/TCS34725Config class for TCS34725 RGB color sensor

  • phypidaq/AS7262Config class for AS7262 six channel color sensor

  • phypidaq/AS7265xConfig class for AS7265x 18 channel spectral sensor

  • phypidaq/
    class for gamma ray detektor GDK101, FTLAB

  • phypidaq/
    class to generate simulated data (for test, debugging or exercises)

  • phypidaq/ReplayConfig
    class to replay data from file

  • phypidaq/
    interface and background-process handling data visualisation

  • phypidaq/
    class for display of data histories and xy diagrams

  • phypidaq/
    general display module for data as bar graphs, history plots and xy-graphs

  • phypidaq/
    store data in CSV format

    class containing the implementation of script

  • class implementing the graphical user interface, uses phypiUI as base class

  • phypyUI

    base class for runPhyPyUI, generated from phypi.ui with pyuic5

  • phypi.ui output of designer-qt5 , describes the graphical user interface

Configuration files

  • PhyPiConf.daq
    main configuration file, depends on device configurations in sub-directory config/
  • config/ADS1115Config.yaml 16 bit ADC
  • config/MCP3008Config.yaml 10 bit ADC
  • config/MCP3208Config.yaml 12 bit ADC
  • config/INA219Config.yaml current and voltage sensore
  • config/DS18B20Config.yaml digital temperature sensor
  • config/BMP280Config.yaml temperature and pressure sensor
  • ``config/BMP180Config.yaml` temperature and pressure sensor
  • config/GPIOCount.yaml frequency measruement via GPIO pin
  • config/MAX31855Config.yaml converter for thermocouple
  • config/MAX31865Config.yaml converter for PT-100
  • config/INA219Config.yaml current-voltage sensor
  • config/TCS34752Config.yaml RGB sensor
  • config/AS7262Config.yaml 6 channel color sensor
  • config/AS7265xConfig.yaml 18 channel spectral sensor
  • config/VL53L1XConfig.yaml distance sensor
  • config/GDK101.yaml gamma-ray detector
  • config/PSConfig.yaml PicoScope usb oscilloscope


  • examples/
    very minimalist example to read one channel from an analog-to-ditigal converter

  • examples/
    very minimalist example to read one channel from an analog-to-ditigal converter and display data as a history graph

  • examples/
    read two channels from an analog-to-ditigal converter and display data as a history graph

  • examples/
    read data from INA219 current and voltage sensor

  • examples/read_18B20.pys simple example to read the temperature sensor DS18B20

  • examples/ simple example to read the digital temperature and pressure sensor BMP180/280

  • examples/ simple example to read the digital accelerometer MMA8451

  • examples/
    run an oscilloscope display, configuration as specified in .yaml file (default is PSOsci.yaml)

  • examples/
    example to control GPIO pins: generate square signal on output pin from variable voltage on input pin

  • examples/
    generate a random signal following Poisson statistics on a GPIO pin

  • examples/
    generate a fixed frequency signal on a GPIO pin

  • examples/set_MPC4725
    example to set voltage on MCP4725 ditital-to-analog converter

Configuration files for

  • examples/Amperemeter.daq
    display current and eventually voltage read from INA219 sensor
  • examples/Barometer.daq
    uses BMB180 or BMP280 sensors to display temperature and air pressure
  • examples/Accelerometer.daq
    uses MMA8451 to display x-, y- and z-acceleration
  • examples/NoiseMeter.daq
    measure noise with a microphone connected to PicoScope USB oscilloscope; displays the rms of 200 samples taken over a time periods of 20 ms. Can also be used with geophone SM-24
  • examples/RGBsensor.daq RGB color sensor
  • examples/ColorSpectrum.daq six channel color sensor
  • examples/AS7265x.daq 18 channel spectral sensor
  • examples/GammaDose.daq
    measurement of gamma-ray dose with GDK101
  • examples/ToyData.daq generation and display of simulated data
  • examples/ReplayData.daq
    data from file (for demo mode)
  • examples/
    read data from named linux pipe ( with option DAQfifo: <pipe name>)


  • doc/ (.pdf)
    German only: Introductory course to measuring with the Raspberry Pi
  • doc/ (.pdf)
    German only: setting up the Raspberry Pi for this project
  • doc/ (.pdf)
    recommended components for this project
  • doc/ (.pdf)
    building instructions for a force sensor
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