Polarized light microscopes, also called Polarizing Microscopes or PLM Microscopes. In a classic optical microscope, also known as the simple "light" microscope, visible light is sent through a series of lenses to magnify a sample. A polarizing microscope, or PLM, is an optical microscope with the addition of polarizing filters and strain-free objectives that acts to polarize visible light.
Polarizing Microscopes (PLM) uses two filters; a polarizer, positioned in the light path somewhere before the specimen (usually fixed to a left-right, or East-West position) and an analyzer (a second polarizer), placed in the optical pathway between the objective rear aperture and the observation tubes or camera port, set to a North-South position, though it can be rotated on some microscope models. The analyzer can be slid in and out of the path of the source light. The professional grades are equipped with Bertrand Lens system, compensator plates: quartz wedge, mica (1/4 wavelength), and gypsum (full wavelength) part of the analyzer.
Analyzer: situated on top of the microscope - (under the head and above objectives)
Polarizer: situated on the bottom of the microscope, above the light source
Using the polarizer by itself will assist in studying the sample under polarized light while using both filters (polarizer and analyzer) allow study under cross-polarized light. While no light can pass under cross-polarized light, it is possible to discern mineral characteristics. Minerals within a sample are generally aligned at various angles, so as one rotates the stage, different parts will "black out" at different times. Cross polarization can be obtained by turning the polarizer and the analyzer at 90° to each other, which is the extinction angle. At this extinction angle, most light transmission is blocked by the polarized filters. A polarized light microscope set at the extinction angle is able to view thin sections of birefringent specimens and see stunning coloration.
Polarizing microscopes are used for medical applications like Rheumatology to view crystals in urine (gout); industrial applications like detecting defects in semiconductors or finding stress points in metal and glass; geology - studying meteorite thin specimens; biochemistry, biomedical research, and petroleum or oil industry (mud logging) - such as studying fibers suspended in liquid or analyzing content and chemical makeup of many different organic and inorganic materials.
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