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Microscopes is an instrument that magnifies small objects producing an image in which the object appears larger. Magnifying glass is an example of simple microscopes containing just one lens. Generally a microscope consist of multiple lenses and are called as compound microscopes. These microscopes can bend light to produce a much more magnified image than that of a magnifying glass because of the way the lenses in them are arranged.
A compound microscope that has only two lenses produce an inverted image. The orientation of the image is flipped while examining the actual object. However, this did not happens in case of more complex compound microscopes as they include an additional lens that re-inverts the image back to its normal position.
Magnification and resolution are two important factors that should be taken in to consideration in a microscope to view a clear picture of something very small. A larger version of a blurry image will be viewed if a microscope has high magnification but low resolution.
Types of Microscopes:
There are several different types of microscopes and each of them are used in different ways. Thses include:
Light microscopes are basically student microscope where visible light is passed through the specimen or the biological sample and is bent through the lens system producing a magnified image. It can be used to view the normal behaviors such as migrating or dividing of living cells. Light microscope also uses optical tricks to enhance contrast which makes it easier to view the cells in detail.
- Compound light microscope enlarge the object to be viewed by combining the power of lenses and light. The compound light microscope is used by botanists for studying plant cells, in biology to view bacteria and parasites as well as a variety of human and animal cells. These are also used in in forensic labs for identifying drug structures. These are readily available in simple models and are inexpensive.
- Visible light is passed through the sample and produces an image directly without any modifications in student lab microscopes.
- A fluorescence microscopy is another type of light microscope which is used to image samples that fluoresce. It absorb one wavelength of light to excite the fluorescent molecules and emit another to form a picture by collecting the light of a different wavelength. The the part of a cell or tissue that has to be viewed must be labeled with a fluorescent dye or tag before it goes under the microscope.
- A laser is used to excite a thin layer of the sample in a confocal microscope. The emitted light coming from the target layer is only collected that produces a sharp image. There is no interference from fluorescent molecules in the surrounding layers.
Stereo microscope has two optical paths at slightly different angles that produces a three dimensional image under the lenses. These are also called as also called a dissecting microscope and are used for looking at surfaces, microsurgery, watch making, and building and inspecting circuit boards. Plant photosynthesis in action can also be observed by using this microscope.
Electron microscopes produce an image of a specimen by using a beam of electrons. As electrons have much shorter wavelength than visible light, these microscope produces higher resolution images than standard light microscopes. Therefore, electron microscopes can be used to examine the subcellular structures and compartments within them along with the complete cells. However, electron microscope samples must be placed under vacuum and an extensive fixation process is required for this. Therefore it is not possible to examine the live cells with electron microscope. There are mainly two types of electron microscopy. These include:
- Scanning electron microscopy (SEM), where a beam of electrons moves back and forth across the surface of a cell or tissue, producing a detailed image of the 3D surface.
- Transmission electron microscopy (TEM), where the sample is divided into extremely thin slices before imaging, and the electron beam passes through the slice rather than skimming over its surface. These microscopes are used to produce detailed images of the internal structures of cells.
Electron microscopes are more bulkier and expensive than standard light microscopes.
Digital microscope uses computer to view the objects that are not visible to the naked eye. After connecting it to a computer monitor through a USB cable, the magnified specimen can be viewed. Moving images can be recorded or single images can be captured in the memory of the computer. The moving images can be watched for long periods and the captured image can also be emailed.