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Advanced Condenser Systems: Abbe Condensers

Brightfield Illumination
Digital Image Gallery

Performance of the Intel Play 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.

The microscope configuration illustrated in Figure 1 has been designed to test the quality of digital images produced with the QX3 microscope optical components and digital imaging system when assisted by an advanced substage condenser. This configuration employs an aftermarket substage Abbe-style condenser that contains two lenses and an aperture diaphragm. The microscope body and condenser are mounted onto ring stands using several clamps, with the condenser being positioned axially to the microscope optical train and mounted beneath the stage. Illumination is provided by an external lamphouse powered by a 120-volt 20-watt tungsten bulb, which is cooled through a series of heat sinks on the outside of the lamphouse. The illuminator has a removable color conversion filter that adjusts the 2900 K tungsten light to daylight illumination (5500 K). We have investigated optical microscopy in brightfield mode using the configuration presented in Figure 1 and have assembled a gallery of digital images created with the QX3 body coupled to an Abbe condenser. Use the links below to navigate to individual photomicrographs of specimens photographed with the QX3 computer microscope equipped for advanced brightfield illumination.

American Sycamore Wood - The American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, is sometimes referred to as a "Butterwood" and can live 500 years or longer.

Bryozoans: Genus Bugula - Bryozoans, or "moss animals", are tiny colonial organisms that live in aquatic environments where they feed on microscopic plankton. Like coral, these aquatic animals were mistakenly thought to be plants until the mid-1700s.

Capsella Mature Embryos - A member of the mustard family commonly known as Shepherd's Purse, Capsella buras-pastoris is considered by some botanists to be a carnivorous plant.

Cartilage - Cartilage is a dense network of collagen fibers, embedded in a firm but flexible plastic-like substance. This precursor of bone is found in all vertebrate embryos and makes up the skeletons of sharks and lampreys.

Coprinus - The Coprinus genus of mushrooms consists of about 100 species from around the world. The "Inky Cap" mushrooms, a popular nickname for this genus, are widely distributed throughout the world but only two species are edible, and then only while the mushrooms are young.

Daphnia - Daphnia are microscopic crustaceans that populate lakes and ponds throughout the world. Commonly known as the "water flea," these tiny animals are the primary food for many species of fish.

Diatoms - Diatoms are single-celled algae whose cell walls are composed of silica fashioned into a myriad of beautiful geometrical shapes and patterns. One of the most prolific sea organisms, the nearly 16,000 species of this group form a significant portion of the aquatic food chain.

Dust - Household dust contains a variety of tiny particles including hair, skin flakes, pollen, mold, clothing fibers, animal dander, and detergents. Dust is a common cause of allergies, but it's actually the dust mites that are the culprits.

Elodea Leaf - Elodea, the once innocent aquarium plant, has become infamous as an invasive species in many parts of the world. Unwanted plants have been dumped into lakes and ponds where they form dense mats that choke out native aquatic plants, provide poor habitat for fish, and interfere with aquatic sports.

Green Algae - One of the most diverse and widespread group of algae, these aquatic plants are found all over the world where they produce an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the total global oxygen.

Lily Flower Bud - The lily flower, a herbaceous flowering plant native to the temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, figures prominently as a symbol in mythology, folklore, and contemporary culture.

Lily Ovary - Although long prized as an ornamental plant for gardeners, some members of this plant family are better known for their culinary applications.

Marchantia Mature Sporophyte - Also known as liverworts or "liver plants", mature sporophytes are the asexual reproductive form for the Marchantia order of Bryophytes. Liverworts don't contribute directly to the human economy, but do provide food for animals, facilitate the decay of fallen trees, and help disintegrate rocks.

Mites - Mites are related to spiders and are among the most diverse and abundant of all arachnids. These tiny insects date back to the early Devonian period, nearly 400 million years ago, making them among the oldest of all creatures to inhabit the Earth.

Mixed Pollen - Plant pollen, the bane of allergy prone individuals, comes in a seemingly endless variety of sizes and shapes and is found just about everywhere. These microspores have remarkably symmetrical structure and surface patterns and are readily recognizable under the microscope.

Moss - Mosses are small, spore-bearing land plants found throughout all the world's habitats, with the exception of salt water. Over 10,000 species commonly carpet woodland and forest floors throughout the world, where they are instrumental in breaking down organic materials.

Onion Root - One of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, onions are closely related to garlic, lilies, and tulips. A member of the lily family, the onion is thought to be a native of Southwestern Asia, but is now grown throughout the world.

Sawdust - Wood is one of the most important natural resources in the United States. Until recent years, however, more than half of every tree cut for lumber ended up in waste, wood scraps, chips, shavings, and sawdust. Sawdust is 50 percent cellulose and is one of the chief waste products of natural wood furniture production.

Sodium Chloride Crystals - Common table salt is one of the most abundant chemical compounds on the earth, playing a crucial role in natural chemistry, biology, and in the history of human economies.

Spirogyra - Spirogyra is a filamentous algae that can be found in almost every pond or ditch, often forming a thick scum on the surface of the water. In spite of its slimy exterior, at the microscopic level Spirogyra is a beauty to behold.

Tilia (Basswood) Stem - The American Basswood is one of the most treasured ornamental trees, having a tall, straight trunk and rounded crown. Basswood is a hardwood that is well suited for growth in rich and fertile soils of the Northeastern United States.

Zea Kernel and Embryo - Corn (Zea mays) is the domesticated variety of the Zea grass family, originally cultivated by Native Americans 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Teosinte (Zea mexicana), a wild relative, still exists today in Mexico.


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