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Homework Help: Understanding microscope resolution limit

  1. Oct 29, 2013 #1
    My question involves understanding why there is a limit to resolution of a microscope.

    I have a hard time putting what i think is happening into words.

    My attempt:
    When light of some wavelength strikes an object on the scale of that same wavelength it gets reflected. Since the details on that object are smaller than the wavelength those surfaces or parts cant reflect the light in the different directions that are needed to distinguish it from the other parts.

    lol i feel like that is horrible. I have an idea of what i want to say, but not sure if it is right.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 29, 2013 #2

    Andrew Mason

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    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Think of light in terms of photons whose size is determined by the wavelength of the light. An object is illuminated by bouncing photons off of it. If the size of the detail you are trying to view is smaller than the size of the photons you are bouncing off the object, can you resolve that detail? So what do you need to do to the photons to see that detail?

  4. Oct 30, 2013 #3
    A microscope is also limited by the formation of diffraction patterns. Lets say you have two points in close proximity. Each forming a circular diffraction pattern. These patterns are superimposed and limits the resolution of the two images.
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