Life Science Solutions

Polarized Light Microscopy

Section Overview:

Polarized light microscopy is a useful method to generate contrast in birefringent specimens and to determine qualitative and quantitative aspects of crystallographic axes present in various materials. The beautiful kaleidoscopic colors displayed by specimens under crossed polarizers arises as a result of the interference between light waves passing through the specimen. Addition of retardation plates (often termed compensators) can change the colors and hues of a material and provide information about specimen thickness and the order or birefringence. Use our interactive Java tutorials to explore how specimens are imaged with a polarized light microscope.

Contributing Authors

Mortimer Abramowitz - Olympus America, Inc., Two Corporate Center Drive., Melville, New York, 11747.

Kirill I. Tchourioukanov and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.

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