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The future of microscope objectives

28th June 2018


Optical microscopes have enabled advancements in science, medicine, and industrial applications since the 17th century. They are continually evolving to tackle the challenges of the future. Compact, miniaturized objectives allow microscopy systems to be portable, enabling rapid response in the field. Electrically-tunable liquid lens integration and system automation help drastically increase the throughput of industrial applications, and many microscopy applications are moving to ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths to improve resolution and contrast. These developments allow microscopy systems to meet the demanding requirements of emerging applications.

Miniaturiazation

Miniaturized microscope objectives are ideal for weight and size sensitive applications such as rapid response testing of diseases, water monitoring, and microscopic examination on factory floors. The large size, heavy weight, and complexity of standard microscope systems make them impractical for rapid-response field work. Simplified mechanics and compact optical designs allow modern microscope objectives to be as small as a stack of quarters. Ultra-compact objectives will often have a fixed focus, small baffles, and fixed apertures.

Liquid Lens Integration

Liquid lenses are electrically-tunable cells of fluid that quickly change their shape when a current or voltage is applied, adjusting focus to locate objects at different working distances. When integrated into microscope systems in microscopic imaging applications, liquid lenses simplify the process of focus stacking, or z-stacking. Focus stacking is often required when using high magnification objectives due to their limited depths of field. An integrated liquid lens allows objectives to quickly and precisely focus to various object planes, expediting the process of focus stacking and allowing for rapid imaging of thick samples with minimized wasted time between images.

UV Microscopy

Many microscopy applications are utilizing UV wavelengths in pursuit of higher resolution and improved contrast. The wavelength of the light source determines the resolution of optical microscopes, and the short wavelengths of UV radiation can achieve image resolution beyond the diffraction limit of visible light. Contrast is also improved in UV microscopy because of the interaction of UV radiation with the molecules of the sample, which makes features on the sample under examination easier to identify. UV microscopy is ideal for the inspection of devices with miniscule features such as modern semiconductors. UV objectives can also be used with UV lasers to generate small and precise features, making them ideal for laser focusing and processing applications including semiconductor processing, material etching, and aesthetic lasers for wrinkle, tattoo, and hair removal.

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