Seeing the Unseen – A World Beyond

Written by Henry Young. Posted in Science

For many centuries scientists have used optics to explore the inner and outer worlds. As advances have enhanced capabilities, they now use telescopes to see far distant galaxies and stars. On a separate path, many types of microscopes facilitate journeys in the opposite direction.

While most people today had some experience with a basic microscope in their school years, those primitive devices have little to do with the advanced devices offered here at Scienscope. Today’s microscopes are classified by the general physical principle used to create an image of an examined subject. The capabilities of some microscopes verge on the fantastic.

By examining different characteristics of samples, certain microscopes can create images that provide a physical representation. For example, acoustic microscopes can be used to measure elasticity and scanning probe microscopes are used to visualize individual atoms.

With a range of features such as image contrast and resolution, different microscopes perform a variety of critical functions. From inspecting electronic components to searching out various viruses and microbes, these instruments are vital to many aspects of research, industry, and manufacturing. Certainly, modern medical treatments would be vastly more limited without the assistance microscopes have provided.

Applying Basic Principles

As the development of different types of microscopes has progressed, different principles have been applied to perform different functions. The basic types of microscopes include:

• Optical microscopes. These are what most people think of when they hear the term microscope. They use visible light (or UV light for certain fluorescence applications) to create images. The traditional optics of refraction produced the first microscopes and created the desire to see even more detail of ever more minute samples. This category of scopes includes compound, stereo and confocal laser scanning microscopes.
• X-ray microscopes. With these devices, an image is created by the use of an x-ray beam. It is possible to create a higher resolution because of the beam’s smaller wavelength. These characteristics made it possible to first view living cells.
• Scanning microscopes. There are a variety of scopes that uses different methods for creating images. For example, a scanning acoustic microscope is used to detect micro-cracks and tension lines in materials.
• Electron microscopes. Some of the most amazing images come from the marvels of these devices. Magnifications of more than 2 million times are possible, again due to the smaller wavelengths of the energy beam.

While advances continue, many new applications for existing technologies continue to be developed. As science learns more about the vast reaches of the universe, it continues to learn more of the unseen world upon which all is built.