6 Types of Microscopes and How They are Used in Various Industries

Posted on May 26 2018 - 7:49am by Matt Holtzen

When it comes to inventions that has truly changed the world, one of the more noteworthy examples is the microscope. A staple in any medical or science lab, this analytical and observational device has allowed us to see and understand things smaller than the naked eye could see.


From the simpler, home laboratory types to the advanced models that use motorized microscope stages, each type of microscope offers not just a specific level of magnification but also specializations that make them perfect for specific industries. Let’s examine some of them below.

The Compound Microscope

This particular model may be the one that comes up in everyone’s minds whenever they’re asked to think of a microscope. Thisis the most common and also the most inexpensive type of microscope that is still in use today.

The compound microscope gets its name because it uses multiple lenses to magnify its subject – the first one at the eyepiece and the second one placed closest to the slide or object being examined. This is called the objective lens. The objective lens can easily be adjusted or swapped out for a more powerful lens. This allows for up to 1000 times the magnification, which easily facilitates the examination of objects like individual cells. In terms of industry usage, compound microscopes are usually found in places that involve extensive research about various microscopic specimens, such as medicine and biology.

The Stereo Microscope

This type of microscope is also called the dissecting microscope. It offers magnification of up to 300 times. That may not seem like a lot compared to the compound microscope, but it’s more than adequate for its exact purpose, which is to help users examine objects that are either opaque or too large to fit into a compound microscope slide.

It is called a stereo microscope because it has two eyepieces, with each eyepiece showing the object at a different angle. This allows the user to inspect the object in a close-up 3D view, making it indispensable for industries that have to deal with tiny parts, such as the electronics and watch-making industry. While stereo microscopes can’t show cells or viruses or microbes, the biological and medical science industries uses it as well for dissecting specimens, hence its alternate nickname.

The Confocal Microscope

This particular microscope uses laser light to scan dyed samples. Along with the help of a series of scanning mirrors, the laser scans the sample and displays a magnified image onto a computer screen. Becausea computer creates the magnified result, it is also possible for users to create a 3D copy of the specimen by combining multiple scans, allowing a full 360 degree view of the sample for closer or in-depth inspection. As advanced as they are, confocal microscopes are a bit too expensive and sophisticated for a common user, and as such only sees applications in the medical industry, particularly those that deal with cellular biology.

The Scanning Electron Microscope

The scanning electron microscopeor SEMuses a focused beam of electrons rather than light to create a magnified, three-dimensional exterior model of the specimen. This results in a highly accurate and high-resolution image of the specimen that, like those made by a confocal microscope, can be rotated for a more in-depth inspection.

The only catch to using a SEM is that the sample needs to be dehydrated and then coated with a thin layer of conductive material, such as gold, for the magnification process to work. SEMs find use in the medical industry for the analysis of biological samples, as well as in the electronics industry for quality checking and parts checking.

The Transmission Electron Microscope

Similar to the SEM, the TEM works by using electrons to create an image of the specimen. However, unlike the SEM, it beams the electrons through the specimen itself, which makes for a highly accurate and highly magnified two-dimensional image output. This makes it perfect for the medical industry, as well as those that are delving into nanotechnology. It also sees use in metallurgical industries and forensic sciences.

In Conclusion

The microscope is one of the many inventions that has changed the world with what it’s allowed us to discover and understand. There is no doubt that as technology continues to advance, so too will the features and utility of this invaluable analytical and observational tool expand, helping us make breakthroughs and discoveries that would we not be able to otherwise.