Light Microscope vs. Electron Microscope

Light microscope and electron microscope both are devices that are designed to visualize complex microscopic structures which are impossible to see with unaided eye. Both the microscopes are used in biology and the material science. But the light microscope and electron microscope both are designed for different applications and differ in many aspects like; light microscope uses beam of light to visualize the specimen while electron microscope uses beam of electron. Light microscope is easy to operate while electron microscope is difficult to use.

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Light Microscope vs. Electron Microscope

Contents: Difference between Light Microscope and Electron Microscope

What is Light Microscope?

Light microscope is used for magnification of smaller specimens which cannot be seen through naked eye. Light microscope uses beam of light and set of lenses to produce a magnified image of a specimen.  It can be of two types single lens microscope and compound microscope. Single lens microscope has a single lens for magnification while compound microscope contains two lenses objective lens and an eyepiece. Light microscopes are easy to operate, cheaper to buy and have very low maintenance costs. Light microscope have very low power of magnification up to 1500x. Light microscope is used to visualize both dead and live specimens. Its lenses are made up of glasses with low resolving power. Images are seen through an eyepiece. Specimen preparation is quick and takes about few minutes or hours. Images formed by light microscope are due to absorption of light rays. Light microscope is compact and handy. Light microscope produce colored images but the color is because of stains used while preparing the slide.

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What is Electron Microscope?

Electron microscope is also used for magnification of smaller objects which cannot be seen through basic microscopes. Electron microscope uses beam of electrons for magnification. Electron microscopes are also of two types; scanning electron microscopes (SEM) and transmission electron microscopes (TEM). SEM provides a 3D impression of a specimen while TEM in contrast, gives a 2-dimensional cross section of a specimen. Electron microscope is very difficult and complicated to use. It requires high technical skills and special environment. Electron microscope have very high magnifying power up to 1,000,000x. Electron microscope can only visualize dead specimen because it uses electrons which are destructive. It can only be operable under a very high vacuum. Images formed by electron microscope are seen on a photographic plates or zinc sulphate fluorescent screen. As compared to light microscope, electron microscopes are very expensive and have high maintenance costs. Electron microscope produces black and white images because electrons lack colors. But sometimes image can be artificially colored for better visualization. Lenses are made up of electromagnets which are high in resolving power. Preparation of a specimen for electron microscope takes several days.

Difference

  1. Light microscope uses beam of light while electron microscope uses beam of electron to form larger and detailed images.
  2. Light microscope have very low power of magnification as compared to electron microscope.
  3. Light microscopes are very easily operable, cheap to buy and have very low maintenance cost while electron microscopes are very expensive, complicated in use and require very high technical skills.
  4. Light microscope does not require vacuum while electron microscope can only be operable under a high vacuum.
  5. Light microscope can visualize both living and dead specimens while electron microscope can only visualize dead specimens.
  6. Light microscope lenses are made up of glass while electron microscope lenses are made of electromagnets.
  7. Light microscope forms images by absorption of light while electron microscope forms images by scattering of electrons.
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