Difference Between Optical and Electron Microscope


Optical vs. Electron Microscopes

Many students are instantly plagued when placed in front of a microscope. How does it operate, or what type of microscope is it? Even if they already know that it is an optical microscope and not an electron, they still don’t know why they are called such names.  Generally, electron microscopes are better than its optical counterpart. This is because of the following various reasons. Foremost, electron microscopes use (as the name implies) electrons to magnify a projected image. Optical microscopes use photons. The nature of electrons includes having wavelengths that are much shorter than that of photons. The result is that electron microscopes are able to achieve unprecedented magnifications of up to one million times. This is just too much compared to the limited magnifying power of optical microscopes of only one thousand times maximum magnifying power.

Aside from this wide difference in magnification capability, electron microscopes are said to project a more detailed field, compared to the fuzzy details of the optical microscope, that is especially noticeable at higher magnifications. Due to all of these features, electron microscopes are obviously more expensive, and are more difficult to maintain, because they need to be powered by a stable electrical source. Nevertheless, even if they give a more detailed picture, electron microscopes, in general, produce grayscale images and they don’t show the true colors of the image.  In terms of the lenses used, electron microscopes use a specially crafted electrostatic lens for it to maneuver the beams that are needed to make the image in the microscope’s viewing field. Conversely, optical microscopes make use of an ordinary lens, that directs light to make an image of the specimen under observation.

Lastly, the common optical microscope is also known by many as the light microscope. They are also the pioneering microscopes, because they were the first designed instruments that made use of a readily available simple lenses, compared to the newer electron microscope that was first conceptualized way back in 1931.

All in all,

·         Optical microscopes are the simplest and oldest microscopes around compared to the newer electron model.

·         Optical models are cheaper and easier to maintain than the electron microscope.

·         Optical microscopes use a simple lens, whereas electron microscopes use an electrostatic or electromagnetic lens.

·         4. Optical microscopes have a maximum magnification power of 1,000, compared to the better resolving power of the electron microscope that can reach 1,000,000 times.

·         5. Optical microscopes use photons or light energy, while electron microscopes use electrons, which have shorter wavelengths that allows greater magnification.

·         6. Overall, electron microscopes deliver a more detailed image compared to optical microscopes.

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