Basics of Microscopes
Microscope Types & Principles
Main Types of Microscopes
The table below describes the main types of microscopes within the optical, electron, and scanning probe categories.
|Binocular stereoscopic microscope||A microscope that allows easy observation of 3D objects at low magnification.|
|Brightfield microscope||A typical microscope that uses transmitted light to observe targets at high magnification.|
|Polarizing microscope||A microscope that uses different light transmission characteristics of materials, such as crystalline structures, to produce an image.|
|Phase contrast microscope||A microscope that visualizes minute surface irregularities by using light interference. It is commonly used to observe living cells without staining them.
What is a phase contrast microscope?
With a conventional biological microscope, it is difficult to observe colorless, transparent cells while they are alive. A phase contrast microscope makes it possible by utilizing two characteristics of light, diffraction and interference, to visualize specimens based on brightness differences (contrast).
|Differential interference contrast microscope||This microscope, similar to the phase contrast, is used to observe minute surface irregularities but at a higher resolution. However, the use of polarized light limits the variety of observable specimen containers.|
|Fluorescence microscope||A biological microscope that observes fluorescence emitted by samples by using special light sources such as mercury lamps. When combined with additional equipment, brightfield microscopes can also perform fluorescence imaging.
What is a fluorescence microscope?
A fluorescence microscope enables cells and proteins to be observed by using a fluorescent protein or antibody as a label. This type of microscope is indispensable for modern cell biology.
|Total internal reflection fluorescence microscope||A fluorescence microscope that uses an evanescent wave to only illuminate near the surface of a specimen. The region that is viewed is generally very thin compared to conventional microscopes. Observation is possible in molecular units due to reduced background light.|
(Laser scanning confocal microscope)
|This microscope uses laser beams for clear observation of thick samples with different focal distances.
What is a laser scanning confocal microscope?
This type of microscope is characterized by using laser beams as the light source. Laser scanning allows high-resolution observation as well as accurate 3D measurement.
|Multiphoton excitation microscope||The use of multiple excitation lasers reduces damage to cells and allows high-resolution observation of deep areas. This type of microscope is used to observe nerve cells and blood flow in the brain.|
|Structured illumination microscope||A high-resolution microscope with advanced technology to overcome limited resolution found in optical microscopes that is caused by the diffraction of light.
What is a structured illumination microscope?
A type of high-resolution microscope based on technology that has overcome the limited resolution of optical microscopes caused by the diffraction limit of light.
|Transmission electron microscope (TEM), scanning electron microscope (SEM), etc.||These microscopes emit electron beams, not light beams, toward targets to magnify them.|
Scanning probe microscope (SPM)
|Atomic force microscope (AFM), scanning near-field optical microscope (SNOM), etc.||This microscope scans the surface of samples with a probe and this interaction is used to measure fine surface shapes or properties.|
|X-ray microscope, ultrasonic microscope, etc.||-|
In addition to the above categories, optical microscopes can be classified as follows:
Classification by application
|Biological microscope||With a magnification ranging from 50x to 1,500x, this microscope uses sliced samples that are fixed onto slides for observation.|
|(Binocular) stereoscopic microscope||The binocular system allows 3D observation of samples, such as insects or minerals, in their natural state without the need to be sliced. The magnification ranges from 10x to 50x.|
Classification by structure
|Upright microscope||Observes targets from above. This type of microscope is used to observe specimens on slides.|
|Inverted microscope||Observes targets from below. This microscope is used to observe, for example, cells soaked with culture in a dish.|