New microscope will lead to better research

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

World-class microscope is nirvana for scientists

Geosciences Department Chair Bryan TappThe Department of Geosciences has acquired a new microscope that Chair Bryan Tapp said will allow faculty and graduate students to conduct significantly better research into the composition, development and textures of natural and man-made materials.

"It's an awe-inspiring thing," Dr. Tapp said of the new equipment, which was installed in the Microscopy Lab in early October. "You can look at it for its sheer grandeur."

The world-class Nikon refracted microscope is intended for microscopy and photomicrography of thin-sections of rocks, minerals, and man-made materials using a polarized light illumination, as well as reflected light illumination.

"The new optics on the scope have a pure optical path with zero to minimal distortion. That means that image you see in the oculars is as good as light microscopy can be, and the image that you can capture with the digital camera is as good as it can be," Tapp said. "The system allows for detailed visual observation and analysis of materials in transmitted and reflected light."

The new equipment eclipses the department's older microscopes, which have seen thousands of hours of use. The Nikon has a heavier frame - perfect for multiple users - as well as crisp optics, a 12-megapixel camera, multiple-use objectives.

"The advances in optics in the past 15 years have been phenomenal," Tapp said. "This will push our research forward. It will push our graduate students forward."

One example of research would be image analysis of minute gas bubbles in basaltic glasses from the sea floor. The size and distribution minute gas bubbles can be used to determine the cooling rate of the sea-floor basalts. The image analysis part of the microscope system will allow for rapid measurements of size distributions of these bubbles, and greatly facilitate this type of research.

"The microscope will be used by a range of disciplines where high-power, clear imaging is needed," Tapp noted. The Chemistry Department, for instance, could use the scope to analyze and image nano-battery components.


Dr. Bryan Tapp