Maintaining a microscope properly ensures that your microscope works well for years. People rely on a periodic microscope servicing by a qualified microscope technician. But there are various precautions and steps that can be followed to prevent any damage that may inflict your microscope and cause trouble. This article deals with how to maintain a microscope with a step by step guide on how to handle, store, and use your microscope to minimize chances of early damage.
How to Maintain a Microscope – Step by Step Guide
Step 1: Handling The Microscope
Handling and storing the microscope properly is one of the most important aspects to maintain a microscope.
One of the leading factors behind most of the problems of microscopes is that of improper handling of the device. Therefore, it is important to learn how to hold and carry a microscope. There is a base and a metal support arm in a microscope which is to be held while carrying it. Never lift a microscope by grabbing the stage. If you pick a microscope by holding its stage, the mechanical stage will get misaligned. If your work requires you to transport the microscope from one place to another often, it is advised to buy a microscope carrying case.
Step 2: Storing The Microscope
The next important step is to securely store a microscope. Always keep your microscope covered with the dust cover, when the microscope is not in use. This proves to extend the life of the microscope. It does not matter if your microscope is stored in a cabinet, you should still cover it with a dust cover.
Even if the microscope is covered, do not store it without the eyepieces. If you store a microscope without the eyepieces, dust will get collected within the eye tubes which is very difficult to clean. In case you must remove the eyepieces, you can cover the tubes with caps. You can also cover the tube with a plastic bag by securing it with a rubber band around the eye tube.
Make sure to thoroughly clean the high power objective lens (100x) and the lens of the condenser, before storing, if you are using immersion oil.
Always turn off the illuminator and wait for it to cool down for several minutes before storing it. Allowing the bulb to cool extends the life of the microscope.
Make sure to store your microscope in an area that does not contain any hazardous or corrosive chemicals or fumes that can damage the lenses or the metal parts of the microscope.
Step 3: Cleaning The Microscope
The way to maintain a microscope is the clean the lenses. Microscope lenses can get dirty over time leading to blurry images of poor quality. To restore the image quality, you need to clean the dirt, dust, and oil off the lenses of your microscope. Microscope lenses are either concave or convex. The steps to clean a concave lens differs from the steps to clean a concave lens. It is important to clean the lenses carefully so that you do not damage them.
Cleaning The Eyepiece Lenses
The lens is what defines a microscope. The more important it is the more prone to damage. Lenses are the most frequently used and part of a microscope so there is a good chance of it getting damaged easily. Lenses are quite delicate and easily get scratched. You should take extra care and precautions to maintain the eyepiece lenses of your microscope.
But the question is how to know that the eyepiece lenses of your microscope need cleaning. Well in order to understand this you should try this method: loose the small screw of the eyepiece. Now you should rotate the eyepiece in a circular motion and check if you see any dust particles then your lens needs cleaning.
There are a few methods to clean your eyepiece lenses which are listed below:
You must not use any sharp thing to clean the lens of the microscope.
You need to properly clean the lenses. Take the lens paper and pour a few drops of lens cleaning solution on it. Now use it to clean the lens.
Rotate the paper on the lens in a circular manner to clean it.
It is also necessary to dry the lens. Use a clean and dry piece of lens paper for this purpose.
For finishing the job, you should use an aspirator at the end. This will help to remove the tiny dust particles.
If you do not have the lens solution do not worry.
You can use distilled water for cleaning the lens.
Keep in mind that you should not take the eyepiece apart. If you do so, it will be very difficult to rearrange it.
Now before you start cleaning the lenses you need to know which of your lenses needs cleaning. So, for knowing that you should take a clean and blank glass slide. Put this slide under the microscope. Now focus the lens of the material microscope by adjusting it accordingly. Now that your lens and nosepiece are set and you are all focused on the slide, move the slide to check for the dust particles. If there is dust, you need to clean it.
You should always keep in mind to clean the immersion oil from the objective lens immediately after use. You can use a piece of lens paper to wipe the oil. However, if you fail to remove the immersion oil immediately from the objective lens, and it gets hard on the surface, take a piece of lens paper, add a few drops of distilled water on it and use it for cleaning the lens.
You can also use alcohol for cleaning the objective lens. You can use Isopropyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is one of the best options for cleaning the immersion oil from an objective lens. But you must keep in mind that the alcohol needs to be concentrated and pure ( more than 90%+ approximately ).
Sometimes dust particles get stuck around the area with residual oil. If this is the case with your microscope then use an oil-soluble solvent for cleaning. Many times you will have to deal with stubborn impurities like Balsam. If this is the case with you, then use Acetone or Xylene. But make sure to not use Acetone anywhere near the plastic parts of the microscope. If you are using strong solvents for cleaning the microscope, make sure to properly sterilize it by wiping it properly with distilled water afterward.
Step 4: Mechanical Maintenance
Microscopes are a bit tricky. It is advisable to not mess it up. Do not attempt to unscrew or rearrange any part of the microscope until you are absolutely sure about what you are doing. If there is any doubt on how to maintain a microscope, you must consult the user manual. A user’s manual or guide is available with almost all the brands of microscopes. This sheet of paper has all the information and step by step instructions to maintain a microscope. It is highly likely that you will get answers to almost all your questions in this book.
Step 5: Nosepiece Adjustment
When you use a microscope you must have noticed that apart from the eyepiece lenses another most significant part of a microscope is the nosepiece. It provides essential support while working on a microscope. It is necessary that it should be adjusted properly.
However, sometimes a misadjustment takes place due to some reasons as a result of which, the microscope nosepiece can lose its perfect orientation. It gets either too loose or too tight. But, this is a common problem. You should not worry much about it. There is a simple way to fix it. If you look closely you will notice that if you loosen or tighten the slot head screw located in the middle portion of the nosepiece, you can adjust it according to your need.
Step 6: Adjusting The Focus Knob
The job of a microscope is to magnify extremely small objects and make them clearly visible to human eyes. For all those people who work with a microscope as well as those who do not work with it regularly or are new, you must know that focusing is a top priority task for the microscope. If you want to maintain a microscope you must pay proper attention to the focus of its lenses. If the focus of a microscope is not set properly you will not be able to see anything. There are many methods to adjust the focus of your microscope which we have listed below.
First of all, put your microscope on a flat space like a table or countertop. Make sure it is sturdy.
Plug the microscope into a power source and turn it on.
Now adjust the nosepiece in such a manner that it is in the lowest magnification, approximately 4X or 10X (as per the type of the microscope).
The lowest magnification will help you in adjusting the focus of your microscope.
Now put the slide on the observing area of the microscope. Center the object you want to magnify and now move the stage upward or downward in order to adjust the focus.
Continue this process until the image is absolutely clear and focused.
You can adjust the coarse focus knob while focusing on the slide. If you are confused about the coarse focus knob, keep in mind that there are two knobs on the side of the microscope, the bigger one is the coarse focus knob. You can rotate this knob in a clockwise direction until the lens is focused properly.
After you have achieved the desired quality of the picture, you can set the fine focus knob according to your requirement. Out of the two knobs, the small one is the focus knob. You can rotate it in both clockwise or anticlockwise directions until you get the desired result.
Step 7: Lubricating Surfaces
As an owner of any tool or device, it is your responsibility to take proper care if that tool or device. Even the low maintenance equipment needs thorough cleansing and oiling once in a while. The same is the case with the microscope. Microscopes are not very high maintenance devices. But it does not mean that you will not take care of it It is advisable to clean and lubricate your microscope once a year. You should clean the dirt thoroughly with clean lens paper, lens cleaning solution, distilled water, etc. You should use a thin coat of lithium-based grease solution to lubricate your microscope.
Step 8: Replacing Bulbs
Replacing the bulb of a microscope can be a tricky process. You must take care of yourself as well as the bulb of the microscope while replacing it. You can always refer to the instructions in the user manual for replacing the bulb of the microscope.
The first and foremost requirement of replacing the bulb of the microscope is to choose a proper replacement bulb. You must take care that the bulb is hot so wait till it cools down before touching it. Try not to touch the glass of the bulb with your hands. It might damage the bulb, as well as your hands, may get burnt. You should use the LED light bulbs as they last longer than the tungsten light bulbs.
Things You Would Need
- Microscope cover
- Cleaning solution
- Disinfectant glass cleaner
- Lint-free cleaning cloth
- Compressed air
- Flat surface
- Air blower or compressed air
- Cotton swabs
- Lens paper
- Lens cleaning solution
A microscope is a delicate device. At first, it appears to be very intriguing to maintain a microscope. However, it is not that difficult. You only need to keep some important points in mind and even if you get stuck somewhere you can always refer to the user’s manual for help and the buying guide. Or you can make a microscope by yourself.
But we are quite sure that after reading this article, on how to maintain a microscope is going to be a cakewalk for you. You just need to follow the step by step instructions and you are good to go.