Difference between Light and Electron Microscope

It is common to have some confusion when distinguishing optical and electronic microscopes, since they have different functionalities. These two types of microscopes, all and having the same objective: to enlarge images of elements imperceptible to the naked eye, are completely different.  Difference between Light and Electron Microscope

It is important that you know their differences in order to use the most appropriate one. In this article we explain the main differences between these two devices.

Optical Microscope vs Electron Microscope

Main differences  Difference between Light and Electron Microscope

  • The main difference is that the optical microscope uses visible light, while the electronic microscope uses electrons.
  • On the other hand, the lens of the optical microscope is made of glass. On the other hand, the electron microscope is electromagnetic.
  • The size of electron microscopes is much larger than the optical.
  • The images of the electron microscope are colorless, while those of the optical if you are in color.

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What is an optical microscope? Difference between Light and Electron Microscope

An optical microscope is one of the instruments that marked a before and after in the history of modern science. Especially in the fields of biology and medicine. 

Optical microscopes can be defined as an apparatus that allows viewing or observing at an enlarged size elements that are imperceptible to the naked eye. These instruments are also known as a light microscope .

It should be noted that the word microscope comes from the combination of the Greek terms “micrós” which means small, and “scopéo” which translates as looking.

This type of microscope is often attributed to the work of the Dutch inventor Anton van Leeuwenhoek.

Characteristics of optical microscopes

The light microscope is the most basic type out there. In fact, he was the one who ushered in the age of microscopy.

Now, as regards its characteristics, it should be noted that its operation is given thanks to a set of lenses, and the use of visible light to enlarge the image of a sample.

Therefore, a microscope includes lenses and elements to manipulate light, a focus also called a light source; a condenser which is traversed by light rays before reaching the sample.

On the other hand, an optical microscope is also composed of a base, an arm that connects the base and the main structure of the microscope. Finally, we must mention the stage where the sample is placed, and the tube that connects the objective with the eyepiece.

What is an electron microscope?

An electron microscope for its operation uses electrons to generate images of tiny objects, instead of using visible light as is the case with the optical microscope.

The first electron microscope was designed by the German physicist Ernst Ruska, and the German engineer Max Knoll between 1925 and 1932. For the development of microscopy they were based on the previous studies of Marco Vilorto.

Finally, it should be noted that there are two types of electron microscopes:

  • The transmission electron microscope and;
  • the scanning electron microscope.

Features of electron microscopes

Electron microscopes can achieve magnifications of objects up to 5,000 times more powerful than the best optical microscopes. These machines can achieve this because the wavelength of electrons is much shorter than that of photons.

On the other hand, it should be mentioned that an electron microscope is composed of an electron source, which is equivalent to the light source of a conventional optical microscope.

These types of microscopes also use electromagnetic lenses, which generate magnetic and electric fields. Also note that the vacuum chamber, the place where the previous procedure is carried out.

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