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how does dark field microscopy work why dark field microscopy?

What is dark field microscopy?

how does dark field microscopy work

how does dark field microscopy work

how does dark field microscopy work

how does dark field microscopy work

Similar to a bright field but it is modified by a dark field stop just below the source. The dark field stop is just the condenser, and blocks the light in the center of the lightsource so that the only light that goes through is around the edges. That light is then bent by the condenser and diffacts off the specimen. None of the light goes directly from the light source into the objective, so if there is no specimen, the image will be very dark. The specimen in this method will be illuminated against a black background.
A dark field microscopy is useful because it increases the contrast of the image and does not use stains. The lack of staining means that it can be used on live specimens and that one can observe the motility of the organism as well as its correct morphology. Usually, the stains and enzymes used in labs can distort the shape of the organism, but that isn’t an issue with dark field microscopy. This method can also be used to see organisms that are hard to stain, such as Treponema pallidum, spirochetes, and mycoplasma.The one downside is that it’s not possible to see the inclusions, or internal details of the cell.

how does dark field microscopy works
dark field microscopy working principle
how does dark field microscopy work
how do dark field microscopy work

dark field microscopy is a microscope illumination technique used to observe unstained samples causing them to appear brightly lit against a dark, almost purely black, background.

When light hits an object, rays are scattered in all directions. The design of the dark field microscopy is such that it removes the dispersed light so that only the scattered beams hit the sample.

The introduction of a condenser and/or stop below the stage ensures that these light rays will hit the specimen at different angles, rather than as a direct light source above/below the object.

The result is a “cone of light” where rays are diffracted, reflected and/or refracted off the object, ultimately, allowing you to view a specimen in dark field.

A dark field microscopy 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.

Dark field can be used to study marine organisms such as algae and plankton, diatoms, insects, fibres, hairs, yeast, live bacterium, protozoa as well as cells and tissues and is ideal for live blood analysis enabling the practitioner to see much more than is possible with other lighting methods.

what is dark field microscopy

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dark field microscopy principle dark field microscopy principle

how does dark field 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.

dark field 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 dark field 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 dark field 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 field microscopy?

Viewing Blood cells.
Viewing bacteria.
Viewing different types of algae.
Viewing hairline metal fractures.
Viewing diamonds and other precious stones.
Viewing shrimp and other vertebrae.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Bright Field Microscopy.
Application of Bright Field Illumination
-This technique is widely used in pathology to
view fixed tissue sections or cell films/smears
-In biological applications, brightfield observation is widely used for stained or naturally pigmented or highly contrasted specimens mounted on a glass microscope slide.


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


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