The Physics
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Resolution of an Optical Microscope

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1999: 517-9. "The best optical microscopes can resolve parts of a specimen that are closer together about 2,000 angstroms." 200 nm
Slayter, Elizabeth. Microscope. Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia Online. Grolier, 1998. "Under optimal conditions… objects as small as 200 nm can be resolved." 200 nm
Cowhig, Jerry. The World Under the Microscope. New York: Bounty, 1974: inside cover. "The best possible resolution that can be resolved with a light microscope is about 2,000 Angstroms" 200 nm
Bunch, Bryan. Electron Microscope. The World Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia. Grolier, 1999. "Abbe predicted the smallest object that could be seen would be about 2,000 angstroms." 200 nm

A light microscope is also known as an optical microscope. Optical microscopes are used daily in our lives for example eyeglasses and a simple magnifying glass. To increase the magnification of a microscope increases the number of lenses. Although sometimes the image becomes unclear that's when the microscope's resolving power decreases. The resolving power is the microscope's ability to produce a clear image.

In the 1870s, a man named Ernst Abbe explained why the resolution of a microscope is limited. He said that since the microscope uses visible light and visible light has a set range of wavelengths. The microscope can't produce the image of an object that is smaller than the length of the light wave.

Throughout all the research I've done, the value for the resolution of a light microscope has been constant at 200 nm (2,000 angstroms).

Geetika Kumar -- 1999