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Dark field electron microscopy:Options,Principle,When to use,dark field electron microscopy Blood images

What is dark field electron microscopy?

Brightfield microscopy uses light from the lamp source under the microscope stage to illuminate the specimen. This light is gathered in the condenser, then shaped into a cone where the apex is focused on the plane of the specimen. In order to view a specimen under a brightfield microscope, the light rays that pass through it must be changed enough in order to interfere with each other (or contrast) and therefore, build an image. At times, a specimen will have a refractive index very similar to the surrounding medium between the microscope stage and the objective lens. When this happens, the image can not be seen. In order to visualize these biological materials well, they must have a contrast caused by the proper refractive indices, or be artificially stained. Since staining can kill specimens, there are times when darkfield microscopy is used instead.

In darkfield microscopy the condenser is designed to form a hollow cone of light (see illustration below), as apposed to brightfield microscopy that illuminates the sample with a full cone of light. In darkfield microscopy, the objective lens sits in the dark hollow of this cone and light travels around the objective lens, but does not enter the cone shaped area. The entire field of view appears dark when there is no sample on the microscope stage. However, when a sample is placed on the stage it appears bright against a dark background. It is similar to back-lighting an object that may be the same color as the background it sits against – in order to make it stand out.

Darkfield microscopy light image

Illustration provided courtesy of Washington State University.

Dark field electron microscopy Applications

Viewing blood cells (biological darkfield microscope, combined with phase contrast)
Viewing bacteria (biological darkfield microscope, often combined with phase contrast)
Viewing different types of algae (biological darkfield microscope)
Viewing hairline metal fractures (metallurgical darkfield microscope)
Viewing diamonds and other precious stones (gemological microscope or stereo darkfield microscope)
Viewing shrimp or other invertebrates (stereo darkfield microscope)

Dark field electron microscopy Options

Metallurigcal reflected light brightfield/darkfield microscope.
Metallurgical reflected and transmitted light brightfield/darkfield microscope.
Stereo microscope 420 with darkfield attachment.
Stereo Zoom SMZ-168 microscope with darkfield attachment.
Biological laboratory phase contrast microscope with darkfield for up to 40x.
Biological laboratory microscope BA210 with darkfield slider.
Biological student microscope 162 with darkfield attachment.

Already have a microscope, but your microscope manufacturer does not make a darkfield stop? If there is a filter holder below your condenser, a darkfield stop we carry may work. Or you can mount a coin or circle of another opaque material in the center of a clear disk and put it in the filter holder.

dark field electron microscopy Principle

To view a specimen in dark field, an opaque disc is placed underneath the condenser lens, so that only light that is scattered by objects on the slide can reach the eye (figure 2). Instead of coming up through the specimen, the light is reflected by particles on the slide. Everything is visible regardless of color, usually bright white against a dark background. Pigmented objects are often seen in “false colors,” that is, the reflected light is of a color different than the color of the object. Better resolution can be obtained using dark field as opposed to bright field viewing.

You don’t need sophisticated equipment to get a dark field effect, although the effect is most dramatic when the occulting disk is built into the condenser itself. You do need a higher intensity light, since you are seeing only reflected light. At low magnification (up to 100x) any decent optical instrument can be set up so that light is reflected toward the viewer rather than passing through the object directly toward the viewer.

To set up a dissecting microscope for “dark field” viewing, the specimen should be placed over an opening so that light reflects only from surfaces between cover slip and slide, not from a surface beneath the slide. You may need to make a stand to hold the slide. The surface beneath the opening should be a flat black. Turn off any built-in illuminator. Aim a high-intensity light source toward the specimen at an angle, from the top or side through a glass dish or jar.

With a compound microscope, dark field is obtained by placing an occulting disk in the light path between source and condenser. A cheap set of occulting disks can be prepared by cutting circular pieces of black electrical tape ranging from dime-size up to a diameter that equals the width of the slide, and sticking them to the slide in a row. The circles should be spaced well apart. A specimen is placed on the microscope stage as usual, and the illumination should be made as uniform as possible. If there is an aperture diaphragm in the condenser (contrast lever), it should be opened up wide. After focusing at low power, the slide with occulting disks is placed in the light path between source and condenser, bringing it as close to the bottom of the condenser as it will go.

I would start with the largest disk, sliding it around until it is directly in the center of the light path. Increasing the illumination should then produce a good dark field effect. To optimize, first try stopping down the field diaphragm to get the best contrast between background and specimen. Try to match the size of the occulting disk to the field diameter, so that the edge of the disk is just outside the field of veiw – smaller disks are appropriate for higher power objectives. Vertically, the disk should be a close to the condenser as possible, to make the contrast the greatest. On microscopes with built-in dark field equipment, the view is so impressive because the occulting disk is built into the condenser – very close and focused. After testing the set-up this way, a stand might be rigged to fit under the microscope, so the slide can be placed in position without holding it. Something that ‘grabs’ the condenser and supports the occulting disks would be ideal. The less the students have to mess with, the better.

I set this up on the crummiest little piece of garbage microscope I could find, and it looked very good. A relatively new student-model microscope should give a much better effect.

Suspensions of cells and samples of pond water look spectacular in dark field. While specimens may look washed out and lack detail in bright field, protists, metazoans, cell suspensions, algae, and other microscopic organisms are clearly distinguished and their details show up well. At 100x you can readily see bacteria, even distinguish some structure (rods, curved rods, spirals, or cocci) and movement. Non-motile bacteria look like vibrating bright dots against a dark background. Motile bacteria can be seen moving in a definite direction, sometimes remarkably fast. In pond water samples you may find Spirillum volutans, a very large (up to 0.5 mm) motile spiral bacterium.

When to use dark field electron microscopy?

dark field electron microscopy is most readily set up at low magnifications (up to 100x), although it can be used with any dry objective lens. Any time you wish to view everything in a liquid sample, debris and all, dark field is best. Even tiny dust particles are obvious. Dark field is especially useful for finding cells in suspension. Dark field makes it easy to obtain the correct focal plane at low magnification for small, low contrast specimens. Use dark field for

Initial examination of suspensions of cells such as yeast, bacteria, small protists, or cell and tissue fractions including cheek epithelial cells, chloroplasts, mitochondria, even blood cells (small diameter of pigmented cells makes it tricky to find them sometimes despite the color).
Initial survey and observation at low powers of pond water samples, hay or soil infusions, purchased protist or metazoan cultures.
Examination of lightly stained prepared slides. ? Initial location of any specimen of very small size for later viewing at higher power.
Determination of motility in cultures

dark field electron microscopy Blood images

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