Modern Microscopy and Its Role in Fueling New Scientific Discoveries

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Several things account for how we use microscopes nowadays. The principles of the optical systems we depend on in microscopy have probably not changed much since the millennium turn. However, we have come a long way from the compound microscope’s invention in the 1590s and the first practical microscope in the late 1600s. The changes lie mostly in acquiring images and processing microscopic information and technologies that shift microscopy from manual or human-operated to automated and digitized. Regardless, a microscope carries a timeless function. It must help accomplish three things: magnify the specimen, resolve or separate the details in the model, and render these details visible to the camera or the naked human eye. These processes have fueled several important scientific discoveries and will account for many more.

Modern Microscopy and Its Role in Fueling New Scientific Discoveries 1

Evolving microscopic technologies

We use microscopes to precisely study small and complex worlds, like individual cells in the human body. Notably, a microscope enables scientists to view objects themselves at high magnification and explore the relationship between each oobject’sstructures and functions at different levels of resolution. Modern microscopes come in optical, electron, and scanning probe microscopes, with optical microscopes being the most commonly used. Optical microscopes are wide-field microscopes (such as basic light microscopes) and confocal microscopes, focusing smaller and more precise beams of light into specimens at one narrow level of depth at a time.

We can trace several advancements in microscopic technologies to the last century, especially in the quality of cameras and electronic sensors used in microscopes. But cus, tom technologies also play a part in modern labs. For example, the mmicroscope’sfocus axes include piezo technology and direct drive technology with linear motors. Precision z-focusing stages through the latter can achieve the critical depth of focus needed by a confocal microscope. They can answer the need for high-resolution and repeatable imaging. In these advancement cases, it is most important for the scientist to ask: what measurement or technique can answer their research questions? Engaging with these research questions is how modern microscopic technology serves science as we know it and innovation.

Fields of breakthrough

Zacharias and Hans Janssen, a father-and-son team of spectacle makers in the late 16th century, first experimented in the 1590s with multiple lenses in a single tube and could magnify images up to 9x. Less than a hundred years later, a fellow Dutchman named Anton van Leeuwenhoek built the first practical microscopes and became the “”ather of Microbiology,”  “seeing and describing bacteria for the first time from water droplets. Modern scientists can imbibe the Janssens and van Leeuwenhoek when they achieve greater insight with the microscope. We can now interpret specimen structures in both 2D and 3D; it is just a matter of selecting the right lighting techniques, physically sectioning the specimens, analyzing their features, and using suitable computing parameters to effectively describe them.

Microscopes have contributed to scientific discovery in multiple disciplines. With better microscopic technology, we improve our knowledge in life sciences, medicine, genetics, environmental science, materials science, and engineering. The modern applications are broad and quite awe-inspiring in scope. For example, in the field of microscopy, a research team based at the SScotland’sUniversity of Strathclyde has designed a microscope called the Mesolens. The Mesolens can go as far as to entire image tumors in one field of view and examine 10- to 12-day-old mouse embryos in stunning detail, rendering structures inside the researcher’s cells visible. The microscope was rightfully included in Physics WWorld’sTop Ten Breakthroughs of 2016. With those possibilities in mind, we can conclude that modern microscopy will have even more to offer us as the years go by. Various technologies have enriched this field and will pave the way for future scientific discovery and innovation.

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