The Small But Essential Microscope Slide

One of the sometimes overlooked pieces of equipment in any research lab is the humble microscope slide. Yet without a high quality microscope slide, the characteristics of the specimen being viewed can often be confused with the characteristics of the surface on which it is placed. A colored background will appear, under magnification, to be part of the specimen, and may even cause light refection which creates a haze around the specimen and makes it harder to analyze

Microscope slides, if they are to provide the clearest possible images, are required be made according to specific standards. Those which do not meet those standards will not be acceptable in any lab which performs microscopic research.

Characteristics Of Microscope Slides

A microscope slide must be constructed wither of glass or plastic; most slides are transparency so that their surfaces are not confused with the specimen upon it; nor will it create the haze-producing reflection. There are, however, frosted microscope slides for special uses.

The microscope slide should be a rectangle measuring 25 mm by 75 mm. Such a size makes the microscope slide both easy to manipulate and big enough to contain an adequately sized specimen. Under certain circumstances, however, larger slides may be called for, and as long as the microscope can accommodate them their use is appropriate.

A microscope slide should be between 1 mm and 1.2 mm thick, in order to diffuse light so that it is neither bright enough to irritate the viewer’s eyes not dim enough to make the specimen difficult to see. Slides are usually purchased in thicknesses a little greater than required for their expected use.

Cover Slips

Microscope slides which will be used with liquid specimens should have cover slips. Cover slips are use to “squash” the liquid so that air bubbled cannot form in it and affect the appearance of the specimen. The cover slip is simply a very small, thin piece of glass or plastic.

Handling A Microscope Slide

Microscope slides, especially those made of glass, are extremely fragile and should be handled with care, both to protect them and to protect their handlers should they break. A microscope should always be handled from the edges, so that its surface is not contaminated with oils from fingers which can mar the appearance of the specimen. For more info see on Digital Microscope Camera.

A single drop of pond water on a clean, transparent microscope slide can be a portal to another universe!

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