Microscopes are available in different sizes and applications. It is the reason behind many learners finding it challenging to distinguish them.
Light and electron microscopes are the most common microscopes in school laboratories. These instruments have unique features and meant for different purposes.
Both microscopes use radiations to form a detailed image of an object that a human eye cannot see using naked eyes. These instruments are used at both the high school and university levels.
So, what is the main difference between light microscope and electron microscope? The former is has a lower magnification while the latter has a higher magnification and resolution.
This article provides detailed differences between light and electron microscope in a tabular form. Take the time to read through it and learn more about their similarities.
Comparison Table (Light vs Electron Microscopes)
|Basic Terms||Light Microscope||Electron Microscope|
|Year of Discovery||1590 by Zoocharia Janssen||1931 by Ernst Ruska and Max Knoll|
|Sources of illumination||Visible light||Beam of electrons|
|Lenses||Condenser lens, eyepiece, and objective lens||Projector lens, objective, and condenser lens|
|Type of Lenses||Glass lens material||Electromagnetic lens material|
|Resolving Power||0.2 µm||0.001 µm|
|Viewing Screen||Image is the view directly through the eyepiece||Image is viewed on the fluorescent screen|
|Amount of Power||The low power supply amount||The high power supply amount|
|Cooling system||Not available||Readily available|
|Preparation||Simple and fast to prepare the sample||Complex to prepare the sample|
|Types||Ultraviolet microscopy, bright field microscopy, confocal microscopy, darkfield microscopy, differential interference contrast microscopy, phase contrast microscope, and fluorescence microscopy.||Scanning transmission electron microscope, scanning electron microscope, transmission electron microscope, focused ion beam, and electron microscope.|
|Vacuum system||Does not have a vacuum system||Have a vacuum system|
|Filament||Does not have one||Have Tungsten filament|
|Leakage of Radiation||No leakage||Susceptible to radiation leakage|
|Colour of image||Coloured||Black and white|
|Contrast image||Specimen need to be stained||Specimens need to be coated by heavy metal.|
|Size||Comparatively smaller||Tend to be larger in size|
|Image Visibility||Suitable for both dead and living cells||Only suitable for dead cells|
|Dimension of Image||Getting a detailed structure of the object is hard||3D structure of the object|
|Availability||Readily available||Not available|
|Common Place of Usage||In Schools, Colleges and Universities Labs||Research extensive institutions and hospitals|
What Is A Light Microscope?
A light microscope is also known as a compound microscope. The optical microscope uses sources of light to view a tiny object with transparent glasses and a projection screen.
The device is quite common in many labs of schools, colleges, and universities for viewing microorganisms. It is made of many parts that play different functions.
Some of the common parts of a light microscope are objective lenses. The eyepiece, diaphragm, light source, mirror, condenser, resolving nose piece, stage clips, tube, objective, coarse and fine focus.
The good news about the optical microscope is that it is simple and easy to handle. However, the resolution power tends to be low when compared to the electron microscope.
Here are some of the common types of compound microscope in the market right now: ultraviolet microscope, bright field microscopy, confocal microscopy, darkfield microscopy, differential interference contrast microscopy, phase contrast microscope, and fluorescence microscopy.
Advantages of a Light Microscope
- Quite affordable
- Suitable for living and dead specimens
- The natural color of objects is maintained
- The image can be seen directly
- No high electricity voltage is required
- No effect of magnification
Disadvantages of a Light Microscope
- Revolving and magnification power is low
- Preparation of specimen is tricky
- Does not provide detailed information about an atom
- Light beams do not travel in a straight path
- Not ideal for small organisms
What Is An Electron Microscope?
An electron microscope used electrons to view tiny objects instead of visible light as seen in a light microscope. The device is widely used by the scientist when to want to study finer details about an object.
The resolution power in an electron microscope is more advanced when compared to that of the light microscope. This is one of the reasons behind their popularity.
Some of the common types of electron microscope are scanning transmission electron microscopes, scanning electron microscope, transmission electron microscopes, focused ion beams, and electron microscope.
The electron microscope is meant to view details of an organelle due to its high power resolution property. The electrons have a short wavelength when compared to visible light.
Advantages of an Electron Microscope
- Has the best revolving power
- The magnification is 10000 times
- Provide a 3D image
- Provide more clarity due to shorter wavelength
- Provide detailed information about a specimen
Disadvantages of an Electron Microscope
- Provide black and white images only
- Tedious to prepare specimens
- Quite complex to operate
- Too expensive to acquire
- Suitable for dead specimens
- Prone to leakages of radiations
Difference between Light and Electron Microscopes
- The illuminating source in the light microscope is visible light while that of an electron microscope is a beam of electrons.
- The resolving and magnification power of a light microscope is 0.2 µm and 1000 times while that of an electron microscope is 0.001 µm and 10,000,000 times.
- Projection screen and glass lenses are used in light microscope while the fluorescent screen and an Electromagnetic screen are used in an electron microscope.
- The light microscope is able to obtain colored images of both living and dead cells while electron microscopes provide black and white color for dead cells only.
- The energy consumption in the electron microscope is quite high when compared to the light microscope.
- An electron microscope used tungsten filament which increases the risk of radiation leakage while a light microscope does not have a filament.
- The light microscope is simple to handle and easy to acquire while the electron microscope is not easy to operate and very expensive to acquire.
- An electron microscope is an extremely expensive instrument whereas a light microscope is quite affordable
- The size of a light microscope is comparatively smaller while that of an electron microscope is comparatively larger
- Light microscope provide colored images whereas an electron microscope provides black and white images
- The natural color of objects can be visualized in a light microscope whereas cannot be visualized in an electron microscope
- Color imparting dyes are used in the light microscope for staining while the electron microscope uses heavy metals for staining
- The image can be observed by naked eyes under a light microscope whereas image cannot be observed by naked eyes under the electron microscope
- Preparation of specimens for the light microscope is quite simple whereas the preparation of specimens for the electron microscope is tedious and complex
- The limited resolution of the light microscope is about 200 mm whereas that of the electron microscope is about 0.1 mm
- The objective and eyepiece lenses in the light microscope changes the magnification whereas the electric power or electric current changes the magnification of the electron microscope
- Image formation under an electron microscope depends on the electron beams by different regions whereas that of the light microscope depend on differential absorption of light by different regions
- The specimen under the light microscope is mounted on a glass slide whereas that of an electron microscope is mounted on a metallic grid
- Focusing under the light microscope is done by adjusting the lens mechanically whereas the electron microscope is done by adjusting the power of the electric current to electromagnetic lenses
- All the lenses of the light microscope are made of glass whereas those of the electron microscope are made of electromagnets.
Similarities between Light and Electron Microscope
- Both are used for visualizing small objects that cannot be observed by eyes
- Both require specimen preparation by staining
- Both are used in research application
- Both can be used in microphotography
- Both follow Abbes law
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The magnification of the electron microscope and the light microscope is what makes these two types of microscope stand apart.
However, they are quite essential for visualizing objects that cannot be seen by naked eyes. They are ideal for research applications.
More Sources and References
- Electron Microscope. Wikipedia
- Microscopy. Khan Academy