Wednesday, October 3, 2012

10 Tips for Better Microscopy

Fiddling with coarse focus knobs and fine focus knobs can get really old, really fast if you're not sure what you're doing. Here are 10 tips that will have you using your microscope like a pro. Even if you're comfortable with your microscope, these tips will perfect your skills - there's always room to learn something new, right?

1. A compound microscope gives a two-dimensional, flat image. Use a compound microscope for specimens that are to be examined using a slide preparation method (micro). There are monocular, dual-view, binocular and trinocular compound microscopes.

2. A stereo microscope has a binocular body and gives a three-dimensional image. Use a stereo microscope for specimens that have depth or are large in size and require a working distance (macro).

3. Start to focus using the lowest magnification! In a compound microscope, this is the 4X objective and in a stereo microscope, this is the 1X objective. Make sure the objective "clicks" into place before beginning.

4. Always place the specimen to be viewed in the center of the stage or stage plate. If you're using a compound microscope, make sure the slide is placed on the stage with the center over the light.

5. This may sound like a no-brainer, but make sure a slide is right-side-up when viewing it. This is especially important when you're looking at a prepared slide. If it's upside down, it won't be in focus on high power (40X)!

6. When focusing in on an image, use the coarse adjustment knob first, then the fine focus knob. If done correctly, you should be able to change between objectives with just a minor fine focus adjustment. Fun fact: this means the microscope is parafocalled.

7. When you want to adjust the illumination, use the intensity control and condenser or diaphragm.

8. Remember, when using higher magnifications, it is necessary to adjust the light source.

9. Proper care and handling is a must! This will give your microscope a happier, longer life. Always carry a microscope by sing two hands; one hand around the arm and the other under the base.

10. Just like you enjoy being clean, so does your microscope. Keep your microscope clean. To clean the lenses, remove any dust or dirt with a camel brush or canned air. Moisten one end of a Q-tip with lens cleaning solution while keeping the other end of the Q-tip dry. Clean the optical surface by moving the moist part of the Q-tip in a circular motion. Using the dry end of the Q-tip, repeat the same motion to dry. Insider tip: a solution of Windex and vinegar works well. Finally, when you're microscope isn't in use, use a dust cover to store.