Here at The Science Hub, we deal with all kinds of cool scientific technology. But none is more important to a budding (or experienced) mad scientist than the microscope! So we’ve decided to answer all your pressing questions on microscope troubleshooting right here and now.
Question: What can I use to clean the lens on my microscope?
Answer: Your best bet is to use 70% Isopropyl Alcohol with lens paper, if it’s available. The type of cloth used for cleaning reading glasses works well, but don’t use Kleenex-type tissue, as it is very “dusty” and will leave a lot of lint on the lens.
Question: Lint seems to be a real problem on the eyepieces. How do I remove it without always having to use lens cleaner and papers?
Answer: Use a microscope cleaning kit and a rubber blower to remove lint. You can also use compressed air, but be careful with the residue that compressed air can leave behind.
Question: The 4x and 10x objectives are fine, but it’s hard to see through the 40x and the 100x objectives. What can I do to fix this?
Answer: Microscope focusing best practices:
- When preparing your own slides, do not place the specimen between two slides.
- The 40x and 100x objectives cannot focus on a specimen that is under a slide. To focus on objects at these ranges, you must use cover glass, which is a paper-thin piece of glass or plastic that is placed over the specimen.
- When viewing professionally made prepared slides, make sure the specimen is face up (cover glass on top) when viewing.
- Clean the bottom of the objectives thoroughly with lens paper and a little rubbing alcohol. On most microscopes, the 40x and 100x objectives’ front lens is slightly concave in design. This causes problems when users go to clean the objectives. Sometimes when using the 40x and 100x objectives, the objective can come in contact with substances or oil on the slides. This can make objects look blurry if the objectives are not clean. The reason the oil penetrates the objective is due to either not cleaning off the oil after usage or leaving the objective in oil on the slide after reading it. Always clean the oil off the objective after use.
Question: It’s difficult to see through all of the objectives. What can I do to fix that?
Answer: The stage stop may be set too low. The stage stop is a little screw usually in the back of the microscope behind the stage. The factory sets the stage stop so that the user doesn’t hit the slide specimen into the objective. Sometimes they set the stage stop too low, which prevents the microscope from focusing properly. Customers can loosen the stage stop screw to allow the stage to come up higher.
Question: I bought a microscope and the bulb does not come on or is blinking. What should I do about that?
Answer: Your microscope may have a fluorescent bulb. It’s normal for certain types of bulbs to blink or flicker for several seconds every time the microscope is turned on. Try replacing the bulb with the extra bulb in the box. If this doesn’t work, the microscope may need to be repaired.
Question: What is the difference between a compound microscope and a stereo/dissecting microscope?
Answer: Stereo or dissecting microscopes are used to examine objects such as rocks, bugs, leaves or anything that does not require high magnification. In industrial applications, these scopes are used for inspection purposes and assembly of components on electronic circuit boards. In the medical field, they are used for examining or dissecting tissue. Most stereo microscopes provide a magnification factor of 7x up to 60x.
Compound microscopes are used to examine items much smaller in size. Doctors and laboratories use them for examining blood cells and tissue and urine samples. The industry uses them for inspection of integrated circuits, metal structural integrity, and any other application that requires high magnification. Most compound microscopes provide a magnification factor starting at 40x, reaching up to 1,000x.
Please note that the term “monocular” means one eyepiece, “binocular” means two eyepieces, and “trinocular” means that you have two standard eyepieces and one extra port or access for viewing your material. This extra port is generally used to mount some type of camera device such as a 35mm, polaroid-type, or video camera.
Question: How should I prevent objective glass from getting scratched?
Answer: The only two objectives that may come into contact with the specimen slide are the 40x and 100x. Typically you will see these described as 40XR and 100XR. The “R” means retractable. This means that the objective is spring-loaded and will push inside itself to prevent scratching. This will also prevent the objective from breaking the slide along with the stage stop. However, you should always pay attention to how close the objective is to the specimen while focusing.
Question: What type of microscope should I buy for…
Answer: An elementary school student?
- 9 and under – SMD-04
- 9 and UP – MFL-06 or MFL-20
A middle school student?
A high school student?
A college student?
- MRJ-03 (Budget)
- MRP-5000 (recommended)
- MIS-5000 (MOHS application, dermatology)
- MIS-6000, MIS-8000 – Top of the line
- MIS-9000 – Looking at petri dishes
Someone who wants to adapt a camera?
- MF-04 – Budget / schools
- MRP-3000T / MRJ-03T – Professional
Someone who wants to look at coins, stamps, etc.?
- SMJ – Budget only one light and 1 objective
- SMP – Two lights and 2 magnifications
Question: What is a mechanical stage and should I get it?
Answer: A mechanical stage helps move the specimen around easily and smoothly for viewing. Without a mechanical stage, the user is left to move the slide by hand. The mechanical stage is more expensive, but it is recommended for ease of use.
Did you find these answers helpful? If your questions on microscope problems wasn’t answered above, feel free to leave a comment below and we will answer your question! You can also contact us here. Don’t forget to subscribe to The Science Hub for more useful science information!