Microscopes have helped humanity understand a world invisible to the human eye. Look around you; everything that you see around you is made up of teeny tiny building blocks called cells. These cells intermingle with other cells to form the mass of everything around you. The only way to see these intermingling blocks is through an innovation called the microscope.
The microscope is a device that was created to magnify very small objects, opening the world of microscopic organisms to the naked eye. Microscopes are made up of multiple, different, and powerful lenses that make small objects visible to viewers by making things appear over 100 times bigger than the actual size. With the intricacy of design and complexity of materials, microscopes are often very expensive – which is why it’s important to know how to properly handle microscopes.
Despite their simple form, microscopes can be heavy. If you don’t exercise adequate caution when carrying this laboratory apparatus, the chances of dropping or dislodging another component of the microscope increase.
As microscopes are an integral part of science classes at school, it is very likely that your children will have to carry microscopes themselves. To avoid and prevent any form of damage you can start ahead and teach them the proper way of handling microscopes.
Lesson 1: Carrying the Microscope
Microscopes are deceptively heavy. So when you intend to carry a microscope, make sure you don’t underestimate its weight. The proper way to carry a microscope, start with a firm grasp on the arm with your stronger or dominant hand. Slowly lift the microscope to make sure that no parts are shaken. Once the base is accessible for your secondary hand, firmly support the base of the microscope with the available palm to stabilize the microscope as you move it to its intended location.
Do not ever hold the microscope by the objective lens or its stage because these are very sensitive areas. Doing so may lead to possible misalignment that will distort the images and give rise to issues with image formation. At the very worst, this may lead to permanent and irreversible damage.
Lesson 2: How to Use a Microscope
Now that you know how to carry a microscope, you can now start learning how to carefully use one. Most schools prefer using compound microscopes over any other type, so for this case, you’ll be learning how to operate this particular type.
The first thing to do is to set the microscope to the lowest power objective lens so you can manipulate what you see starting from the lowest possible power. To do this, turn the revolving turret until the lowest power objective lens clicks into position.
After you put your subject on the slide, place it onto the stage and fasten it with the stage clips. To get the clearest view of the specimen, switch your attention between the objective lens and the stage as you turn the focus knob, checking whether the specimen is clear each time you peek into the lens and on the side of the stage.
As you do so, remember not to let the specimen and lens touch. Peek through the eyepiece to view the specimen and move the focus as needed until you get a clear view of the image. Once you get a decent view, improve the image visibility by adjusting the condenser and light intensity using the greatest amount of light.
If the image is lit and clear enough for you, adjust the slide until you position it in the center of the microscope’s field of view. Use the focus knob to adjust focus and the condenser to manipulate the light intensity as needed.
Changing objective lenses may require some adjustments to the focus, condenser, and light intensity. Once you finish, you may lower the stage, click the low power lens into position and remove the specimen.
Lesson 3: Storing a Microscope
Microscopes have certain parts that are sensitive and fragile. In fact, it has been recommended that microscopes be cared for even when they are not in use to preserve their functionality. To ensure that the lifespan of your microscope is extended and to maintain a high-quality performance, there is a need to store it properly.
It is important to note that dust can scratch the lenses of a microscope. It also interferes with the magnification process so it’s important that you find a place for the microscope that allows it to be safe from dust and other harmful elements.
- When operating a microscope. Wash and dry your hands to assure that dust or dirt isn’t moved from your palms and fingers and onto the microscope.
- When not in use, turn the microscope off or ensure that it is operating on the lowest possible magnification setting.
- Use a can of compressed air to clean the body and all the surfaces exposed to elements. Do not clean the lenses using this method.
- The tube, arm, stage, and base can be wiped with a damp lint-free cloth.
- Lenses should be thoroughly cleaned using a cleaning solution and specially-made lens cleaning papers. These should be available in camera stores.
- Always remember to face the lenses toward the stage.
- Before storing, the microscope should be covered with a plastic microscope cover. In some cases, the cover has zippers. When the cover you have has them, make sure you fully seal the plastic container shut.
- Place the microscope in a storage area where it will not be knocked over like a flat surface or a flat table.
- Make sure that the storage area will not expose the microscope to direct sunlight for extended periods.
These are some of the most important pointers for storing your microscope. Remember that proper storage is essential in maintaining high-quality performance and an extended life span.
Lesson 4: Maintaining a Microscope
Here are some Dos and Don’ts for maintaining the microscopes you have at school or home:
- When operating your microscope, the slide should be prepared with a coverslip over the specimen to protect the lenses in case of unfortunate contact.
- Maintain a cover for your microscope when idle or not in use.
- Always follow the guidelines in carrying a microscope to make sure it is safe through the support of both hands; one on the arm and one on the base.
- Remember to remove camera mounts before moving the microscope to avoid accidents as the weight of the camera may cause an imbalance in weights and make handling the microscope difficult.
- If you have any wiring involved in your operation, remember to unplug them from power sources or outlets.
- Do not carry a microscope when the stage has a wet slide positioned on top of it.
- Never move a microscope if the cover is still on.
- Never touch the lenses with your finger. There are special materials for cleaning and maintenance.
- Never hold a microscope with one hand.
These are just a few things to remember when handling a microscope. Remember that most microscopes are heavy and fragile so thorough and responsible handling is required to ensure that the microscope is always in top shape.