Thursday, January 30, 2014

Human Hair at 500x

This single strand of human hair was captured under a metallurgical microscope at 500x magnification using a 3mp microscope camera.

Metallurgical microscope image of human hair at 500x
Human hair, 500x magnification.

hair under microscope at 500x
Human Hair, 500x magnification.
Notice the scales of the fibers that hold bind the single strand of hair together.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Microscope Immersion Oil

If you look closely at the 100x objective lens on a light microscope, you will usually find the word "OIL" written on the lens. This inscription means that the microscope lens is an immersion oil objective lens and the best results will be obtained using immersion oil.

100x immersion oil microscope lens
Immersion Oil Microscope Lens
Immersion oil is placed between the top of the cover slip and the bottom of the 100x oil lens, essentially sealing out any air between the specimen and the microscope objective lens.

These images of frogs blood were captured using a 3mp microscope camera and the U2 biological microscope. One image was captured without any immersion oil, the other image was captured using immersion oil.

Frogs blood no immersion oil 1000x
Frogs blood, 1000x magnification, no immersion oil used.
immersion oil 1000x frogs blood
Frogs blood, 1000x magnification, using immersion oil.
Notice the difference in clarity between the two images that were captured at 1000x magnification. Once you have finished using the microscope with the immersion oil. Be sure to clean off the objective lens so the immersion oil does not harden on it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What Grows in Murky Pool Water

If a pool is left unattended in the winter months, the water turns into murky pond water. But what exactly can be found in this water? Microscope World recently got a sample of some murky pool water and put it under a Motic BA310 microscope to see what types of creatures were swimming around.

dirty pool image
Dirty pool water.

Ciliates (Protozoans) found under the microscope.
The small pointed rod-shaped items are Ciliates, a group of Protozoans characterized by the presence of hair-like organelles called cilia on them. The image above was captured using a 2 mega pixel  monochrome Lumenera Infinity 2-2 CCD microscope camera.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Live Blood Cells under Microscope

This video was captured using the MW4-HD2 digital biological microscope. The blood cells are a Microscope World employee's blood and were placed on the microscope glass slide with a cover slip immediately after the blood was drawn. Notice how active the living blood cells are!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Spirogyra under the Microscope

Spirogyra is a genus of green algae of the order Zygnematales. Spirogyra have a sprial arrangement of chloroplasts and are commonly found in fresh water ponds. The cell wall of Spirogyra has two layers - the outer wall is composed of pectin that dissolves in water to make the filament slimy to touch while the inner wall is made up of cellulose. The chloroplasts are ribbon shaped and usually arranged spirally, which results in the prominent characteristic green spiral on each filament.

Spirogyra 100x
Spirogyra captured under the microscope at 100x.
In the springtime Spirogyra grows under water, but when there is more sunlight and warmth, Spirogyra produce large amounts of oxygen that adhere as bubbles among the tangled filaments. These masses of Spirogyra come to the surface and become visible as a slimy green mat.

Spirogyra 400x
Spirogyra captured at 400x using the U2 biological microscope.
This Spirogyra prepared slide is available in the botany prepared slide kit. Images were captured using the U2 biological microscope and the 5mp microscope camera.

Spirogyra prepared slide captured at 400x under a biological microscope.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Polarizing Microscope Slide Preparation Tips

Polarizing microscopes are used to look at thin sections of rocks and minerals. It is very important when using a polarizing microscope that the thickness of the sample is correct in order for the light to shine through the specimen properly and produce a high quality image. Polarization requires accurate measurements involving light intensity, patterns and colors and therefore specimen thickness is probably the most important factor when preparing samples.

Adequate transparency for identification of minerals requires a section that is 0.02mm - 0.03mm thick. For materials where only structure is of interest, sections may be as thick as 0.25mm or more.

Both grains and thin sections are examined under a polarizing microscope and it is frequently important to know the refractive index of the mounting medium. In the majority of cases with grains, it is more efficient to mount grains with oils. Temperature effects on refractive index determinations are great and any exact statement regarding refractive index must include the temperature at which it was determined. If temperature changes are accompanied by changes in chemical composition, optical properties may change as well.

Platy minerals such as mica or other minerals in grain form are more difficult to manipulate under a cover slip and will not roll over well. It can be helpful to mix a little powdered glass with the mineral or grains in order to separate the cover slip and the sample and allow the platy material to move and turn over freely.

polarizing microscope image of litric acid
Litric Acid captured at 400x under the MT9300 Polarizing Microscope

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kids Science Project: What is in the Water?

Water can be swimming with a variety of different creatures. This kids science project is fun and easy to do at home or school. First, gather your supplies:
Collect several small jars of water from a local pond, the ocean, your local pool, your sink and if possible, a muddy marsh. Label each jar of water and put the date you collected the water on the jar.

Student microscope
F1 Student Microscope
Set up the microscope and make sure you start using the lowest magnification of 40x. Place a small drop of water on your depression slide and put a cover slip on top. Once you have the slide under the microscope you may need to move it around a bit in order to view the sample. Once you have the slide in focus at 40x, move up to 100x and 400x magnification, where you will be able to view bacteria or creatures swimming in the water.

Not sure what you see?
Here are a few examples of creatures or microorganisms that you might view under your microscope.
  • Protozoa - these have a tail (called flagella) that can sometimes be hard to see.
  • Euglenas - these are found and fresh water and salt water and typically look like long, somewhat round tubes with a flagella (tail). They are often green in color.
  • Amoeba - microorganisms that are a genus of Protozoa. Amoeba move with false feet and they surround their food in order to eat it.
  • Algae - usually yellow, green or red, algae are sometimes found in chains.
  • Bacteria - these are typically rod shaped.
  • Worms - depending how mucky the water was where you found your water, you might even have some small worms moving around in your water.
If you have a microscope camera, capture images to share with your class or so you can compare your findings with future research. If you don't have a microscope camera, draw a few sketches of the organisms you found in your water.

Which type of water had the most organisms? Did you find any surprise creatures?

Blue Green Algae captured under the microscope, 100x.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Staphylococcus Under the Microscope

Staphylococcus is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria. Under the microscope Staphylococcus appears round and forms grape-like clusters.

microscope 100x image of Staphylococcus Bacteria
Staphylococcus Bacteria under the microscope at 100x magnification.

You may be familiar with Staph infections. There are over 30 types of Staph infections, but Staphylococcus aureus causes most staph infections including Pneumonia, food poisoning, skin infections, toxic shock syndrome and blood poisoning. Skin infections are the most common type of infection.

Most staph infections are treated easily with antibiotics. The best way to prevent a staph infection is by keeping hands and wounds clean.

400x microscope image of bacteria
Staphylococcus Bacteria at 400x under the U2 biological microscope.

The Staphylococcus bacteria prepared slide is available as part of the Bacteriology prepared slide kit.

Scanning Electron Microscope Image
Image: CDC Public Health Image Gallery (Janice Carr)
The image above is Staphylococcus Aereus captured under a scanning electron microscope and 10,000x magnification.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Darkfield Microscopy Slide Preparation Considerations

Darkfield microscopy creates a hollow cone of light that surrounds the specimen and creates somewhat of a back-lit image. When preparing slides for darkfield microscope use, there are several considerations that can help produce higher quality images.

Darkfield live blood cell microscopy image from Microscope World.
Blood cells captured using darkfield microscopy.

  • If using higher magnifications for darkfield microscopy, the mountant or medium must not be too thick or concentrated. If the medium is too thick the required detail will be lost in the general glare and brightened background. The maximum allowable thickness for suspension of particles or organisms is about 10 microns.
  • Microscope slides and cover slips must be very clean and free from scratches. There should not be any air bubbles in the immersion medium. Air bubbles will show up in the darkfield and decrease the contrast.
  • When very critical work is being performed under the microscope, the effect of darkfield condensers can be enhanced by using microscope slides and cover slips that are made of quartz. Glass shows some fluorescence under the normally necessary intense illumination which decreases the background contrast. Quartz better withstands the drastic cleaning methods necessary for critical work.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ants under the Microscope

Ants have colonized almost every landmass on earth. The only places that do not have ants are Antarctica and a few remote islands (Greenland, Iceland, and parts of Polynesia and the Hawaiian islands). Ants thrive in almost any ecosystem and may make up 15-25% of the terrestrial animal biomass.

Ant captured under a student microscope at 100x
Ant captured under a digital student microscope at 100x.

The ant's success in so many environments has been attributed to their social organization and their ability to modify habitats, make use of available resources and defend themselves. Because ants have been able to solve complex problems, they are often compared to human societies and have been studied extensively.

Ant under biological microscope at 400x
And captured at 400x under a biological microscope.

Ants communicate with each other using pheromones, sounds and touch. Similar to other insects, ants perceive smells with their long, thin, and mobile antennae. The paired antennae provide information about the direction and intensity of scents.

Ant seen under the microscope at 400x magnification.
Ant under microscope at 400x.

The ant prepared slide is included in the Zoology, Entomology and Insect prepared slide kit.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Microscope Specimen Preparation

Microscope specimens must be prepared before they can be viewed under the microscope. There are several methods for preparation depending on the sample.


Animal & Plant Tissues - these samples are sectioned by cutting them with a razor blade or the use of a microtome so they can be placed flat between a slide and cover slip and viewed under a biological microscope. Advanced microtomes can provide samples as thin as 1 micrometer. Hand-cut samples are typically thicker. The thicker the sample, the less light that can pass through it. Before cutting your sample, it is best to support it in some manner so that during the cutting process it does not become distorted. Internal and external support is best. In order to support the tissues paraffin or celloidin can be used. Paraffin is quickest and most common. Because paraffin is soluble in water, alcohol dehydration of the object is a prerequisite to embedding by this method. Freezing before sectioning the embedded material can also be successful.

Wood - very thin slices or sections of wood are commonly required for microscopy examination. When fresh, most wood can easily be cut with a blade. If the wood is not fresh, soaking it in hot water or in an alcohol-glycerine mixture (equal volumes) for several days is a common procedure to allow cutting thin sections.

Fibers - because fibers are often fairly flexible, they require some special support during sectioning. Drawing together bundles of fibers through a very small hole in a thin metal plate allows you to make transverse sections by drawing a cutting edge with the metal surface across the bundle. The hole will usually be about 0.5mm diameter and cutting is done on both sides of the plate with a razor. Fibers can be embedded in celloidon or gelatine, then frozen and cut in a conventional microtome. This method is most frequently performed in making longitudinal sections of fibers. Fibers are most commonly viewed under either a stereo microscope or if the fibers are extremely small, a metallurgical microscope is used.

Bone - cutting any materials that contain lyme such as bones or animals with calcareous shells can be made possible by decalcification. The material is first fixed and then treated by special acid mixtures. A good decalcyfying agent is trichloracetic acid, which decalcifies rapidly and hardly changes the structure of the tissue. Bone is typically viewed under a biological laboratory microscope in very thin sections. Larger pieces of bone are viewed under a stereo zoom microscope.


Rocks and minerals - creating thin sections of very hard materials is usually done by grinding. Small chips of rocks, minerals, or other such materials are cemented to microslides and the upper surface ground smooth on a flat metal or glass plate. When the upper surface is flat, the chip is removed by solvent action on the cement and remounted, flat side down. Then final grinding in a similar manner, but to a much finer degree, is continued until the material is of the proper thickness. Rocks and minerals are typically viewed under a polarizing microscope.

Minerals under a polarizing microscope from Microscope World
Minerals captured under a polarizing microscope.

Microfossils - similar grinding procedures as those listed above are commonly used to expose chambers in microscopic shells or tests of microfossils. The grinding is continued until the section or specific attributes of the object are revealed.

Source: Robert B. McLaughlin, Special Methods in Light Microscopy (Microscope Publications Ltd. 1977), 130.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

May 2014 be the year that you:
  • Try something new.
  • Learn something you didn't know.
  • Forgive.
  • Love.
  • Grow.
butterfly wing under microscope
Butterfly wing, 100x magnification.
 One of our favorite images captured under the microscope at Microscope World last year.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2014!