The Disadvantages of Light Microscopes

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Microscopes allow scientists to look at and study objects undetectable by the human eye. The two methods of looking at microbes are light microscopy and electron microscopy. Light microscopes use visible light to expose microbes. Because electron microscopy requires a vacuum to detect samples, it is at somewhat of a disadvantage; light microscopes are portable and affordable, and allow researchers to observe living organisms. But light microscopes also have their own disadvantages.


At a cap of roughly 2,000 times, light microscopes can't magnify as closely as electron microscopes can. Light's relatively long wavelength decreases the light microscope's ability to magnify by requiring small spherical lenses to focus and spread out the light.


Light microscopes have lower resolution. Because the refracted light waves are spread out, the resulting image is blurred. Even instruments that provide additional lenses for increasing magnification do very little to improve image resolution.

Observing Internal Structures

The internal structures of living things are difficult to observe without the use of dyes. Living specimens must be killed and fixed during the dyeing process, thereby eliminating what is normally an advantage of light microscopy.


About the Author

Christopher de la Torre has been writing about science and communication since 1998. His work appears on websites including Singularity Hub and in "Vogue." He holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Eastern Connecticut State University and is pursuing a master's degree in English from George Mason University.