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How Does a Microscope Work and How Do You Use One?

Mar 16,2021 by Edulab

Microscopes are a fundamental piece of laboratory equipment and they play a significant role in laboratories, medical facilities, and even classrooms all over the world. They’ve advanced to become incredibly diverse and more powerful than ever, allowing users to view samples and particles up to an unthinkable x1500 magnification factor.

And on that note, how do users operate a microscope? How do microscopes work, and are there different types? What does the technology behind a microscope involve? And what must you do to ensure that you’re viewing the sample correctly?

You’re in the right place. In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at all of these questions while demonstrating how to get the most out of our product range in your school classroom or lab.

How Do Microscopes Work?

Let’s get straight to it then! How does a microscope work, what parts are involved, and which genius is credited with inventing the microscope anyway? We can certainly help you out with the first part, but to find out who invented the microscope, you’ll need to check out our Brief History of Microscopes [*link].

We’re going to focus on simple optical microscopes and compound microscopes since these are the two most common microscopes used in classrooms throughout the UK.

In its simplest form, the simple microscope is a lens, or a magnifying glass, with a high level of magnification. Compound microscopes use a series of lenses (working in a calculated system) to amplify the magnification factor.

The ocular piece (commonly known as the eyepiece) sits at the top of the body tube to allow the user to peer down onto the sample. Binocular microscopes have two eyepieces, as the name suggests.

Let’s focus on the lenses, the curved pieces of glass. It all begins with the objective lenses – the lenses closest to the specimen at the bottom of the microscope tube. Several objective lenses of different strengths are housed inside the microscope turret, and turning the turret offers the user many different levels of magnification. A lens with a magnification factor of x4, for instance, will make the specimen appear roughly four times larger.

These lenses collect and focus the light from the specimen, which is mounted on a base known as the stage. Beneath the stage, a lighting system carefully emits light to the specimen so that its reflection can be collected.

So far so good – we have lenses and a lighting system beneath the specimen. But microscopes depend on three key things: optics; magnification; resolution.

We’ve already discussed the optics (the light that reflects from the specimen) and the lenses responsible for the magnification process. The final stage is the resolution, which takes place in the eyepiece.

Here, the simple process of focusing the light waves that travel in parallel paths takes place.

When light is magnified through a curved glass, it bends. So to keep it simple – lenses within the tube bend the light from a specimen towards the eye (within the eyepiece) and make an image appear larger than it is.

It’s a very simple process, but one which becomes extremely complicated the more advanced the microscope is.

Ok…So How Do I Use Them?

Has it all sounded a little bit complicated so far? Thankfully, using a microscope couldn’t be easier!

Prepare a microscopic slide (a case that holds a specimen) and place it on the stage. Then, angle the mirror so that light is shining through the hole in the stage.

Try the objective lenses one at a time, and turn the focus ring until you see a sharp, clear image of the magnified sample piece below. You might benefit from viewing the sample under a few different magnification factors.

Once you have a clear image, then your work is done – it’s as simple as that. This means that simple and compound microscopes are great tools to use in any classroom and can help students quickly understand the basic principles of physics as well as the intricate details of the sample they are studying.

Versatile Microscopes with EduLab

We’re the leaders in scientific laboratory supplies and equipment, and we stock a range of reliable, easy-to-use, and robust microscopes fit for use in any classroom.

Speak to our team today to find out more about the compound, digital, and even stereo microscopes that we supply. You can take your teaching to the next level with digital microscopes that display, project, and save exciting samples for your students to dissect and review at their leisure.