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Q & A: What people searched for

Found in: Microscopy Basics, Microscopy FAQ

In this post I’d like to address some of the search queries that people typed to find this web site.

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Naturally people typed many, many more search queries, most of the queries are made of 1 or 2 words. I selected the longer ones for this post.

Q: What is the principal advantage of an electron microscope over an optical microscope?
A: Electron microscopes have a far greater resolution compared to optical microscopes. Consequently, a much higher magnification is possible. Optical microscopes can magnify up to about 1000x, electron microscopes up to about 1 000 000x.

Q: How to increase resolution of image?
A: The resolution of am image can not simply be increased, once a picture has been taken through the microscope. Information which is not present in the first place can not simply be created. When taking pictures with the microscope, one should make sure that all the parameters are optimized to reach the maximum theoretical resolution. This includes a steady camera-microscope connection, the correct condenser diaphragm setting, the optimum mounting medium, etc.

Q: Parts of the microscope and their functions?
A: This question can not simply be answered in a line or two. I would recommend to watch the video, or read the post: Parts of a Compound Microscope

Q: What are some microbes that you can see under a microscope?
A: Ultimately you can see all types of microbes, provided you have the right type of microscope and use the appropriate technique. Viruses can be seen with electron microscopes, but not with light microscopes. Bacteria can best be seen with light microscopes that use phase contrast optics. Single celled eukaryotes (ciliates, algae etc.) as well as multicellular microorganisms can be seen with bight-field compound microscopes and also with stereo microscopes.

Q: How many different types of microscopes are there?
A: It depends on what system of classification you use and how many subdivisions you include. One common way to classify microscopes is into optical and non-optical microscopes. I already wrote a post on different types of microscopes:

Q: Which type of microscope would be best to use if you wanted a 3-dimensional view of a bacteria cell?
A: Here you have to be careful, the question can be misinterpreted. For true 3D, stereoscopic views two different images are needed.

There are two types of microscopes that provide 3-D (stereoscopic) views:

  • Scanning electron microscopes: These devices scan the surface of the object. One single image is produced, which appears 3D (including “shadows” and surface texture). An example image can be found in this article:
  • Confocal laser microscopes: These are highly specialized optical microscopes, in which a computer computes a final. In this case it is possible to compute two different pictures, one for the left and one for the right eye. The image is then truly stereoscopic

Q: Compare the kind of image obtained with scanning electron microscope with that obtained using transmission electron microscopy.
A: In short, scanning electron microscope (SEMs) produce images that have a 3D appearance, Transmission electron microscopes (TEMs) produce 2D images.

Q: Why is it desirable that microscope objectives be parfocal?
A: Parfocal objectives are not only desirable, but (in my humble view) a necessity for efficient microscopic work. Parfocal objectives manufactured in such a way that a change in objective will not result in a significant loss of focus. If the image is in focus using a 4x objective, then the image is also in focus when a 10x objective is used. Significant refocussing is not necessary with parfocal objectives.

Q: Part of the microscope that contains the ocular lens
A: One word answer: the eyepiece. Sometimes the terms “eyepiece” and “ocular lens” are used interchangeably, but the eye piece contains more than one lens element.

Q: Different types of microbes
A: The term “microbe” is a colloquial term which refers to organisms (living things) that are too small to be seen with the unaided eye. The term is somewhat unclear, because microscopic insects (and other multicellular organisms) generally are not included. Viruses are not alive and therefore do not quality as microorganisms. Without going into too much detail, microorganisms include prokaryotes (Bacteria, Archaea), microscopic fungi, single-celled algae and protozoa (ciliates and amoeba belong to this category, among others).

Q: Who invented the microscope?
A: Which microscope? There are many kinds. In 1931, Ernst Ruska and Max Knoll constructed the first prototype of an electron microscope. Optical microscopes as we know them today evolved over a longer time period. Many people contributed to the developments. Two notable figures are Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632 – 1723) and Robert Hook (1635 – 1703). Leeuwenhoek made single-lens microscopes with which he discovered bacteria. Hook constructed compound microscopes (composed of objective and ocular lenses) and coined the term “cell”.

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