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Difference Between Light Microscope and Electron Microscope

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Last updated date: 04th Mar 2024
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What are Light Microscopes and Electron Microscopes?

Microscopes are present in varying particular usage. The most common types of microscopes are the light and the electron microscope. Each of these microscopes bear distinguishing features and is suitable for different purposes. Also, both light and electron microscopes use radiation to form complete images of objects that a human eye cannot view. 


The key difference between light and electron microscope is that a beam of electrons is employed for magnifying the image of an object while visible light is used in the light microscope to magnify images of spotted areas of materials or biological specimens. 


Differences between electron microscope and light microscope in a tabular column are available on this page.


Definition of Light Microscopes and Electron Microscopes

  • Light microscopes/Optical microscope

A light microscope is a tool used to study microbodies such as bacteria, fungus, etc. to identify their features. Also, it enables examination of small objects which are not visible through naked eyes. The light microscope is also known as an optical microscope. It is an instrument that uses light rays and lenses to enlarge images of microorganisms and other small entities.


One has to place the object on a given platform and view the microbe through the eyepieces. Optical ones are of two types - simple and compound microscopes. The simple one utilizes the visual capacity of single or multiple lenses to enlarge objects. In the case of the compound ones, one lens is placed close to the substance for viewing it.


  • Electron microscopes

On the other hand, an electron microscope is an instrument that uses electron beams to capture an image and enlarge it. It is an advanced tool that enables a person to visualise smaller entities in high resolution. Through it, you can magnify things in nanometres and scrutinise the objects carefully.


Though the initial work of both the tools is to magnify objects, there is a difference between light and electron microscope.


Difference between a Light Microscope and Electron Microscope


Light Microscope

Electron Microscope

Uses visible light to magnify objects.

Uses lectron beams to magnify objects.

Low enlargement of objects than its electron counterpart.

An advanced tool for magnification offering higher resolution. 

The optical microscope has a low resolution of approximately 0.25 μm.

It has a higher resolution power of approximately 0.01 μ than an optical one.

It does not use any filament. 

It uses tungsten filament to release electrons. 

Both living and dead organisms are seen through it. 

Only dried and dead organisms are seen.

Preparation of specimens is a matter of a few hours. 

Preparation of the specimen takes time, generally a few days.

It does not require a high cost for maintenance. 

It is expensive to maintain this instrument. 

The image can be seen without any screen. 

The image can be seen through fluorescent screens.

The condenser, eyepiece, and objective lens are made of glass.

All lenses are electromagnetic.

The image that is viewed is coloured.

The image that is viewed is black and white. 

It has a magnification power of 500x to approximately going upto 1000x.

It has an enlargement power of upto 1000000x.

A high voltage of electricity is not necessary. 

A high voltage of minimum 50, 000 volts is necessary.

There is no risk of radiation.

Risk of radiation is present.

It does not have a cooling process enabled in the system. 

It contains an option for cooling to release the heat through high current. 

There is no need for a vacuum.

For smooth operation, a vacuum is necessary.


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Multiple Choice Questions

1. The type of electron microscope used for studying the internal structure of cells is

  1. Light microscope

  2. Scanning electron microscope (SEM)

  3. Compound microscope

  4. Transmission electron microscope (TEM)

Answer: d


2. The magnification power of an optical microscope is

  1. 1500x

  2. 4000x

  3. 3000x

  4. 2500x

Answer: a


3. Under an electron microscope, you can magnify an object up to 

  1. 4, 08, 000 times

  2. 2, 09, 000 no. of times

  3. 3, 00, 000 times

  4. 4, 12, 000 number of times

Answer: c


4. The picture taken from a microscope is

  1. Monograph

  2. Micrograph

  3. Pictograph

  4. Macrograph

Answer: b


Do It Yourself

Which portion of a compound microscope enables focussing the visible light on the object for a viewing?

  • Condenser lens

  • Eyepiece

  • Objective lens

From our above text on light microscopes and electron microscopes, we understand that light microscopes use visible light to magnify objects that help us view living and dead organisms without the need of a screen for viewing images. However, electron microscopes use electron beams to view dried and dead organisms on the fluorescent screen.

FAQs on Difference Between Light Microscope and Electron Microscope

1. What are the Uses of Electron Microscopes?

With an electron microscope, we can visualise the tiny structure of various specimens. Therefore, it has applications in the industrial areas for controlling quality, and for studying microbiology.

2. How is Light Microscope Different from Electron Microscope?

An electron microscope utilises electron beams to enlarge an object while a light microscope uses light rays to magnify any object. It is the main difference between light microscope and electron microscope.

3. What are the Three Types of Electron Microscopes?

The three types of electron microscopes consist of a scanning electron microscope (SEM), transmission electron microscope (TEM) and scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM).