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Types of Microscopes

The 3 Different Types of Microscopes You Should Know

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As far as modern inventions go, microscopes are an impressive one. Since their investment, they have advanced at an extraordinary rate. They were designed to enhance, and today’s versions vary in technological sophistication and vary across fields. They can be categorised into a broad range of categories. However, three are three different types you should absolutely know – optical, scanning probe, and electron. 


The earliest known model was an optical or light microscope, and it dates back to the 13th century. It features a singular convex lens that offers powerful magnification. This power increased as scientists continued adding additional lenses for a compound microscope. These microscopes are powerful enough to magnify an item of 0.2 nanometres so that it is visible to the human eye. It is an effective tool, and it is one that has been improved through strategic light placements. Optical microscopes are the most common, but they offer a notoriously low resolution. 

An optical microscope is often used in biotechnology, microbiology, pharmaceutical research, nanophysics, and microelectronics. It’s also a useful tool for viewing biological samples for a variety of medical diagnoses. If you aren’t looking for high-resolution results, then the optical microscope will serve you well. 

Scanning Probe

This technology is only four decades old and runs a probe over microscopic surfaces. As the metallic tip, which can be as tiny as an atom, rolls over the microscopic surface, it measures several things. It can detect magnetic force, physical depth, and electronic force. They are so powerful they can resolve items smaller than a nanometre. The drawback to the scanning probe microscope is the images have no colour, this is because the probe doesn’t rely on visible light to measure.  The scanning probe microscope is useful for studying at the nanoscale level. The resulting resolutions vary depending on the technique and the size of the probe tip. 


An electron microscope uses electron beams, shooting at a subject contained by a vacuum-sealed tubed. This is often how scientists study cells. In a transmission electron microscope (TEM), the beam shoots through the subject and hits a film behind it to form an image of the inner structures’ cells. The TEM is particularly useful for forensic analysis, as well as metallurgy, biological and physical sciences, and nanotechnology. 

A scanning electron microscope (SEM) shoots at a subject’s surface to create a 3D image. In addition to clear resolution, electron microscopes are capable of magnifying as much as one million times. The SEM is commonly used by medical researchers, as well as researchers in biological and physical sciences. This is used to examine a variety of specimens, from bones to insects. 

The Differences 

There are a variety of different microscopes to choose from because they serve different functions and are suitable for different fields of research. The most basic difference is between low and high-powered kits; the higher, the power the greater the magnification power. With some microscopes, the higher the magnification power, the lower the resolution or depth of focus. This is why it is vitally important that you select the right type of microscope for the task at hand. 

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