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Advanced Condenser Systems

The Intel Play QX3 Computer Microscope is capable of imaging specimens using either transmitted or reflected brightfield illumination. In transmitted light mode, a small tungsten lamp positioned within a mixing chamber beneath the stage provides the source of illumination. Light emitted from this lamp is mixed within the confines of the mixing chamber and is then directed through a frosted plastic diffusion screen to illuminate a specimen placed on the microscope stage.

Performance of the QX3 microscope can be dramatically enhanced by the addition of a substage condenser to the optical pathway. It would be difficult to build a condenser into the plastic microscope stage due to space limitations, but the microscope body is readily adaptable to an optical bench or similar framework that will allow positioning of a condenser in the light path.

Addition of an achromatic or Abbe condenser (Figure 1) to the optical pathway dramatically improves the quality of images obtained on the QX3 microscope. High performance condensers can be purchased from microscope manufacturers or through optical supply houses. They can be added, at relatively low cost, to the optical train of the QX3 when both the body and the high performance condenser are mounted together using ring stands and clamps, which are available at science supply houses.

Another alternative is to design an advanced substage condenser that will fit within the confines of the existing QX3 microscope stage. This requires a new condenser design that could be executed in a combination of plastic and aluminum. Follow the links below to navigate to specific topics concerning high performance condensers and new design ideas for aftermarket QX3 substage condensers.

High Performance Condensers - Learn how to improve the quality of images by adapting an advanced condenser to the QX3 microscope. This section discusses the basics of microscope condensers and how they affect specimen illumination and image quality.

Achromatic Condenser Enhancement of QX3 Microscope Digital Images - Corrected optically for chromatic aberrations, achromatic condensers afford a higher level of imaging capabilities than do simple Abbe condensers. This section illustrates several examples of digital images produced with the QX3 microscope coupled to an auxiliary external achromatic condenser and illumination system.

QX3 Advanced Digital Image Galleries - Our investigations with the Intel Play QX3 computer microscope have resulted in the collection of a large number of digital images of a variety of specimens. This gallery was constructed to highlight the best images that we have recorded using advanced condenser systems with this incredible toy microscope.

Abbe Condenser Designs - We have designed a series of Abbe-style substage condenser systems that contain both condenser lenses and a lamphouse for illumination. Although these designs have not been converted into prototypes for testing, they should serve as a good starting point for the design of aftermarket condensers for the QX3 microscope.

  • Abbe Condenser Design One - Incorporating a two-lens Abbe condenser and a tungsten lamphouse, this condenser is designed to replace the existing mixing chamber on the stock QX3 microscope.

  • Abbe Condenser Design Two - Featuring an angled mirror and collector lens in the lamphouse, this design should produce adequate illumination for most specimens in transmitted light microscopy.

  • Abbe Condenser Design Three - The optical elements of this condenser are separated by plastic housings, and a large field or collector lens proceeds the aperture diaphragm in the optical train.

  • Abbe Condenser Design Four - Modeled after modern research microscopes, this design includes a microscope base that houses the illumination system and features leveling footpegs.

  • Abbe Condenser Design Five - Another design that includes a microscope base with an integral field lens and lamphouse.

  • Abbe Condenser Design Six - Taking advantage of advances in modern optical plastics technology, this Abbe-style condenser design features a single condensing lens.

  • Abbe Condenser Design Seven - An advanced design featuring a single condensing lens and a microscope base that includes an efficient multi-component illumination system.

  • Abbe Condenser Design Eight - Featuring an aspherical single-element plastic condenser lens, this advanced design incorporates the latest developments in plastic optics technology.

The condenser system designs described above are intended as candidates for an advanced substage condenser assembly for the QX3 microscope. More advanced multi-lens condensers that are corrected for both chromatic and spherical aberration probably exceed the imaging capabilities of the toy microscope and are not considered for that reason. An effective substage condenser must be coupled to an efficient illumination system to provide adequate light to image specimens in a transmitted brightfield microscope. Because contrast enhancement techniques often require additional illumination, careful attention should be paid to the overall microscope design before attempting advanced methodology.


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