What Does a Light Microscope Show?

Light microscopes reveal the structures of living cells and tissues, according to HowStuffWorks.com. Using light microscopes, scientists have greatly increased human knowledge in the biomedical science fields. Even as they make strides in available technology, the light microscope continues to provide a powerful tool for scientists.

The use of light microscopes goes beyond biological samples. They ALSO reveal the structure of rocks and other nonliving substances. In the electronics industry, a light microscope becomes a tool for inspection of semiconductors for quality assurance.

However, the light microscope is not without limitations. Thicker samples, which do not allow light to pass through them, are not visible under the light microscope. In addition, even if a light microscope includes perfect illumination and a perfect lens, objects smaller than half the wavelength of light are indistinguishable. Using white light, with an average wavelength of 0.55 micrometers requires samples larger than 0.275 micrometers. Lines closer than this merge into a single line. Round objects with diameters smaller than this become a blur at best, according to About.com. Using white light, the magnification is limited to 1250x. Blue light with its shorter wavelength allows the light microscope to provide magnifications up to 5000x. The electron microscope, while not a light microscope, allows the scientist to view objects not visible through the ordinary light microscope.