Biological Instruments

Achieving higher magnification using a compound microscope

A compound microscope is an optical instrument with more than one lens and its own light source. Compound microscope is used to obtain high magnification. It is an extension of the magnifying glass which are used to see very small things. The magnifying power of a simple lens is very limited. It is difficult to get a magnification better than a few times without using a highly curved lens with a high refractive index. This kind of lens will have a lot of aberrations that one can not see the image clearly. Therefore, we used two or more lenses which builds up the compound microscope.

Figure 1. Diagram showing light traveling through the compound microscope

Principle of compound microscope

A compound microscope works on the principle that when a tiny object to be magnified is placed just beyond the focus of its objective lens, a virtual, inverted and highly magnified image of the object is formed at the least distance of distinct vision from the eye held close to the eye piece.

Construction of compound microscope
A compound microscope consists of two convex lenses: an objective lens O of small aperture and an eye piece E of large aperture. The lens which is placed towards the object is called objective lens, while the lens which is towards our eye is called eye piece. These two convex lenses i.e. the objective and the eye piece have short focal length and are fitted at the free ends of two sliding tubes at a suitable distance from each other. Although the focal length of both the objective lens and eye piece is short, but the focal length of the objective lens O is a little shorter than that of the eye piece E.
The reason for using the eye piece of large focal length and large aperture in a compound microscope is, so that it may receive more light rays from the object to be magnified and form a bright image.

Figure 2. Parts of a compound microscope

There are two main parts of compound microscope:

  1. Structural/Mechanical components
  2. Optical components

parts of compound microscope


Working of a compound microscope

Figure 3. Ray diagram of a compound microscope

The ray diagram to show the working of compound microscope is shown in figure. A tiny object AB to be magnified is placed in front of the objective lens just beyond its principal focus fo’. In this case, the objective lens O of the compound microscope forms a real, inverted and enlarged image A’B’ of the object.

Now A’B’ acts as an object for the eye piece E, whose position is adjusted so that A’B’ lies between optical centre C2 and the focus fe’ of eye piece. Now the eye piece forms a final virtual, inverted and highly magnified image A”B”. this final image A”B” is seen by our eye hold close to eye piece, after adjusting the final image A”B” at the least distance of distinct vision of 25 cm from the eye.


Are there any differences between simple microscope and compound microscope? Can you tell them?

Some popular microscopes below $100 are:

Compound Microscope AmScope Microscope Beginner Microscope

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