what is darkfield technology why dark feild microscope?

what is darkfield technology?

darkfield technology

Darkfield microscopy creates contrast in transparent unstained specimens such as living cells. It depends on controlling specimen illumination so that central light which normally passes through and around the specimen is blocked. Rather than light illuminating the sample with a full cone of light (as in brightfield microscopy) the condenser forms a hollow cone with light travelling around the cone rather than through it.

This form of illumination allows only oblique rays of light to strike the specimen on the microscope stage and the image is formed by rays of light scattered by the sample and captured in the objective lens. When there is no sample on the microscope stage the view is completely dark.

Care should be taken in preparing specimens as features above and below the plane of focus can also scatter light and compromise image quality (for example, dust, fingerprints). In general, thin specimens are better because the possibility of diffraction artifacts is reduced.

How darkfield microscopy work?


Microscopes are used to magnify objects. Through magnification, an image is made to appear larger than the original object. The magnification of an object can be calculated roughly by multiplying the magnification of the objective lens times the magnification of the ocular lens. Objects are magnified to be able to see small details. There is no limit to the magnification that can be achieved; however, there is a magnification beyond which detail does not become clearer. The result is called empty magnification when objects are made bigger but their details do not become clearer. Therefore, not only magnification but resolution is important to the quality of the information in an image.

The resolving power of the microscope is defined as the ability to distinguish two points apart from each other. The resolution of a microscope is dependent on a number of factors in its construction. There is also an inherent theoretical limit to resolution imposed by the wavelength of visible light (400-600nm). The theoretical limit of resolution (the smallest distance able to be seen between two points) is calculated as:

Resolution = 0.61 l/N.A.

where l represents the wavelength of light used and N.A.is the numerical aperture. The student-grade microscopes generally have much lower resolution than the theoretical limit because of lower quality lenses and illumination systems.

Standard brightfield microscopy relies upon light from the lamp source being gathered by the substage condenser and shaped into a cone whose apex is focused at the plane of the specimen. Specimens are seen because of their ability to change the speed and the path of the light passing through them. This ability is dependent upon the refractive index and the opacity of the specimen. To see a specimen in a brightfield microscope, the light rays passing through it must be changed sufficiently to be able to interfere with each other which produces contrast (differences in light intensities) and, thereby, build an image. If the specimen has a refractive index too similar to the surrounding medium between the microscope stage and the objective lens, it will not be seen. To visualize biological materials well, the materials must have this inherent contrast caused by the proper refractive indices or be artificially stained. These limitations require instructors to find naturally high contrast materials or to enhance contrast by staining them which often requires killing them. Adequately visualizing transparent living materials or thin unstained specimens is not possible with a brightfield microscope.

Darkfield microscopy relies on a different illumination system. Rather than illuminating the sample with a filled cone of light, the condenser is designed to form a hollow cone of light. The light at the apex of the cone is focused at the plane of the specimen; as this light moves past the specimen plane it spreads again into a hollow cone. The objective lens sits in the dark hollow of this cone; although the light travels around and past the objective lens, no rays enter it (Fig. 1). The entire field appears dark when there is no sample on the microscope stage; thus the name darkfield microscopy. When a sample is on the stage, the light at the apex of the cone strikes it. The image is made only by those rays scattered by the sample and captured in the objective lens (note the rays scattered by the specimen in Figure 1). The image appears bright against the dark background. This situation can be compared to the glittery appearance of dust particles in a dark room illuminated by strong shafts of light coming in through a side window. The dust particles are very small, but are easily seen when they scatter the light rays. This is the working principle of darkfield microscopy and explains how the image of low contrast material is created: an object will be seen against a dark background if it scatters light which is captured with the proper device such as an objective lens.

The highest quality darkfield microscopes are equipped with specialized costly condensers constructed only for darkfield application. This darkfield effect can be achieved in a brightfield microscope, however, by the addition of a simple “stop”. The stop is a piece of opaque material placed below the substage condenser; it blocks out the center of the beam of light coming from the base of the microscope and forms the hollow cone of light needed for darkfield illumination.

why dark feild microscope?

A dark field microscope is ideal for viewing objects that are unstained, transparent and absorb little or no light.

These specimens often have similar refractive indices as their surroundings, making them hard to distinguish with other illumination techniques.

You can use dark field to study marine organisms such as algae and plankton, diatoms, insects, fibers, hairs, yeast and protozoa as well as some minerals and crystals, thin polymers and some ceramics.

You can also use dark field in the research of live bacterium, as well as mounted cells and tissues.

It is more useful in examining external details, such as outlines, edges, grain boundaries and surface defects than internal structure.

Dark field microscopy is often dismissed for more modern observation techniques such as phase contrast and DIC, which provide more accurate, higher contrasted images and can be used to observe a greater number of specimens.

Recently, dark field has regained some of its popularity when combined with other illumination techniques, such as fluorescence, which widens its possible employment in certain fields.

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