The 5 Main Types of Microscopes

In today’s microbiology, there exist quite a few types of microscopes for various varied uses. As such, it becomes quite challenging to actually classify the microscopes into specific types. However, in this edition, we analyzed several microscope uses and features then came up with distinctive types of microscopes based on different features as described below.

Type #1:  Compound Microscopes

This is the most popular type of microscope that is used for both learning/research and even in the industry. Compound microscopes utilize light for illumination. They have a very high magnification power but have a relatively low resolution. Thus, one can be able to view individual cells, including living cells. Images in these types of microscopes are viewed in 2D. Specimens are often mounted on a glass slide and the accuracy of image focusing is often done mechanically using adjustment knobs. In the past, compound microscopes have popularly been used to observe phases of meiosis. Their pricing often ranges between $150 and $10,000.

Type #2: Dissection/Stereoscopes

Both compound microscopes and stereoscopes are light-illuminated and they share much of their functionalities. Nevertheless, stereoscopes have a slightly lower magnification compared to the compound microscopes. This means, you may not be able to distinctly view individual cells in a stereoscope, however, you can be able to view dissections better because these type of microscopes show images in 3D. These microscopes also utilize light reflection to display images while compound microscopes utilize light absorption to display images. The main advantage of this type of microscope is that one can focus on a living specimen and it can be able to display colored images. Their pricing usually range between $100 and $1500.

Type #3: Confocal Microscopes

Confocal microscopes differ from the above microscopes in that they utilize laser light coupled with a dichromatic mirror that is concentrated to a pinhole to magnify images of a specimen. The laser light is preferred to the normal ultraviolet light owing to its wavelength. Images from a confocal microscope are then transmitted to a computer which does the analysis. Accuracy and image focusing is done by the computer. Images from a confocal microscope can only be shown in monochrome. Their price ranges between $20,000 and $100,000.

Type #4: Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

SEMs use electrons as their source of radiation for image magnification. They have both a high image resolution and an accompanying high magnification. SEMs display only monochrome images (images in two colors, mainly black and white) in 3 dimensions. These microscopes utilize the science of scattering to display images. This is achieved through coating the specimen with gold and the electrons bounce off displaying the images. Their prices usually begin as from $50,000.

Last update was on: August 24, 2017 12:55 pm

Take a look at this video if you want to learn more about Scanning Electron Microscopy: (credits to HussainBiology)

Type #5: Transmission Electron Microscopes (TEMs)

TEMs function very much like SEMs. The main difference is that in TEMs, one keeps a focus on the internal features of the specimen. Thus specimens in TEMs are sliced and beams of electrons are shot through them. Unlike SEMs, TEMs show images in 2-D. Their pricing often begins at $60,000.

Last update was on: August 24, 2017 12:55 pm

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