Changes in Tech – The Humble Microscope

Although it may not seem like it, microscopy is still a booming industry and companies are continuing to look at ways we can advance our knowledge of microscopes and how we can improve them. Companies such as are at the forefront of this and providing the best tech to science. The better these microscopes become, the more advanced our knowledge in particular scientific fields will also become.

Scientist using microscope

Microscopes are irreplaceable

Biological scientists, jewelers, geo-scientists and forensic science technicians are some of many job roles that use microscopes extensively.  In the business world, microscopes technology are intensively used by many industries, particularly in medical fields, such as in clinical laboratory industry. Although it’s far from cutting edge, microscopes tech is irreplaceable.

Let’s dig deeper on the background story of microscopes.

The first microscopes were invented more than 350 years ago. The first usable microscope was developed in the 1590s by Hans and Zaccharias Janssen. The microscope used visible light to magnify small objects. Over time, early designs have been reworked and developed by scientists to yield powerful microscopes that can magnify objects to up to two million times their size. Modern microscopes have enabled scientists to view cells and microorganisms in detail, thereby increasing knowledge of cell structure and function.

Jeweler using microscope
photo credit: Boris Thaser / Flickr

Types of microscopes

Here are some of the most frequently used microscopes.

1. The Optical Microscope

Optical microscope use visible light and numerous lenses to magnify a sample. Light passes from the Condenser Lens through the specimen to produce an image; the light then passes through the Objective Lens, the focus of which can be amended to alter the magnification, before eventually passing through the Eyepiece Lens into the eye. Optical microscopes are amongst the oldest microscopes. The current optical microscope design dates back to the 17th century.

Typical optical microscopes are able to magnify images up to 1,500 times and are commonly used to examine plant and animal cells. There are two main types of light microscopes: compound microscopes and stereo (or dissecting) microscopes.

Compound microscopes feature several lenses and are able to magnify a sample several hundred times.

Compound microscopes feature a light collective lens (known as the objective lens), as well as a second group of lenses (known as the eye piece). The objective lens focussing a real image of the object inside the microscope to produce a rudimentary image; the image is then magnified by the eyepiece to provide the viewer with an enlarged, two-dimensional image of the object. Compound microscopes have a higher magnification than simple microscopes. Simple microscopes (first developed by Christiaan Huygens in the 17th century) feature a simple 2-lens system and are still in use today. Stereo Microscopes are another modern-day example of the optical microscope. Stereo microscopes magnify images to approximately 100 x – much less than compound microscopes – but produce three dimensional images.

Commonly cited disadvantages of electron microscopes include their low magnification and resolution. The microscopes’ limited capacity makes them unsuitable for studying the tiny details of cells.


2. The Electron Microscope

Unlike optical microscopes, electron microscopes use electrons to magnify objects. Electron microscopes are considerably more powerful than optical microscopes, typically magnifying images to 50000 x or more. High-energy electrons have a much smaller wavelength than visible light, enabling electron microscopes to produce images with much higher resolutions than optical microscopes. Their increased resolution means they are typically used to study the intricacies of cells that cannot be viewed with low resolution optical microscopes. Electron microscopes are the most powerful microscopes used in modern science.

Transmission Electron Microscopes produce two-dimensional images of samples and have a typically resolution standard of 50000x. TEMs use a high voltage electron gun to illuminate specimens and produce an image. The image may be viewed by projecting the image onto a viewing screen, or by guiding the light to the sensor of a digital camera and projecting the image on a monitor. Scanning Electron Microscopes, on the other hand, have an increased magnification of about 100000 x and produce three-dimensional images of samples.