For most microscope applications, there are generally only two sets of optics which are adjusted by the user, namely, the objectives and the eyepieces. Of course, this is assuming that the microscope is already corrected for Koehler Illumination during which the condenser and diaphragms are adjusted.
The technique of Koehler Illumination is one of the most important and fundamental techniques in achieving optimum imaging in any given light microscope set-up. Although it should be routinely used as part of setting up a microscope, many microscopists are put off by thinking that the correct set-up is complex and time consuming and it is therefore still not widely practised. By getting to know the two main components of the microscope which are adjusted in this technique (the diaphragms and sub-stage condenser) in reality, correct set-up should only take a matter of minutes. A correctly aligned microscope can result in greatly improved images of uniform contrast and illumination as well as higher resolution and more detail. In this article, we will look at the history of the technique in addition to how to adjust the components in five easy steps.
To examine specimens at high magnifications using the microscope, there are a number of factors which need to be taken into consideration. These include resolution, numerical aperture (NA), the working distance of objectives and the refractive index of the medium through which the image is collected by the front lens of an objective. In this article, we will briefly look at how using an immersion medium between the coverslip and the objective front lens helps to increase the NA and resolution.
Numerical aperture (abbreviated as ‘NA’) is an important consideration when trying to distinguish detail in a specimen viewed down the microscope. NA is a number without units and is related to the angles of light which are collected by a lens. In calculating NA (see below), the refractive index of a medium is also taken into account and by matching the refractive index of a slide or cell culture container with an immersion medium, then more of the detail of a specimen will be resolved. The way in which light behaves when travelling from one medium to another is also related to NA (and termed ‘refraction’). This article also covers a brief history of refraction and how this concept is a limiting factor in achieving high NA.
This lecture describes the famous experiments of Ernst Abbe which showed how diffraction of light by a specimen (and interference with the illuminating light) gives rise to an image and how collection of diffracted light defines the resolution of the microscope. These concepts are demonstrated by using a diffraction grating as a specimen and visualizing and comparing the diffraction pattern in the back focal plane as well as the image in the image plane.