Microscopic scale

  (Redirected from Microscopic)

The microscopic scale (from Ancient Greek μικρός (mikrós) 'small', and σκοπέω (skopéō) 'to look (at); examine, inspect') is the scale of objects and events smaller than those that can easily be seen by the naked eye, requiring a lens or microscope to see them clearly.[1] In physics, the microscopic scale is sometimes regarded as the scale between the macroscopic scale and the quantum scale.[2][3] Microscopic units and measurements are used to classify and describe very small objects. One common microscopic length scale unit is the micrometre (also called a micron) (symbol: μm), which is one millionth of a metre.


Whilst compound microscopes were first developed in the 1590s, the significance of the microscopic scale was only truly established in the 1600s when Marcello Malphigi and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek microscopically observed frog lungs and microorganisms. As microbiology was established, the significance of making scientific observations at a microscopic level increased.[4]

Prior to the use of the micro- prefix, other terms were originally incorporated into the International metric system in 1795, such as centi- which represented a factor of 10^-2, and milli-, which represented a factor of 10^-3.[5]

Over time the importance of measurements made at the microscopic scale grew, and an instrument named the Millionometre was developed by watch-making company owner Antoine LeCoultre in 1844. This instrument had the ability to precisely measure objects to the nearest micrometre.[5]

The British Association for the Advancement of Science committee incorporated the micro- prefix into the newly established CGS system in 1873.[5]

The micro- prefix was finally added to the official SI system in 1960, acknowledging measurements that were made at an even smaller level, denoting a factor of 10^-6.[5]


By convention, the microscopic scale also includes classes of objects that are most commonly too small to see but of which some members are large enough to be observed with the eye. Such groups include the Cladocera, planktonic green algae of which Volvox is readily observable, and the protozoa of which stentor can be easily seen without aid. The submicroscopic scale similarly includes objects that are too small to see with an optical microscope.[6]


In thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, the microscopic scale is the scale at which we do not measure or directly observe the precise state of a thermodynamic system – such detailed states of a system are called microstates. We instead measure thermodynamic variables at a macroscopic scale, i.e. the macrostate.

Levels of Microscopic ScaleEdit

As the microscopic scale is covers any object that cannot be seen by the naked eye, yet is visible under a microscope, the range of objects that fall under this scale can be as small as an atom, visible underneath a transmission electron microscope.[7] Microscope types are often distinguished by their mechanism and application, and can be divided into two general categories.[8]

Light microscopesEdit

Amongst light microscopes, the utilised objective lens dictates how small of an object can be seen. These varying objective lenses can change the resolving power of the microscope, which determines the shortest distance that somebody is able to distinguish two separate objects through that microscope lens. It is important to note that the resolution between two objects varies from individual to individual,[8] but the strength of the objective lenses can be quantified.[9]

The most basic microscope used by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek in the 1660s, the Simple microscope, uses a singular lens. The user is therefore limited to the magnification allowed by the objective lens. As such, it is usually used to view non-complex items such as maps.[9]

Compound light microscopes have a number of variations, including Bright-Field, Dark-Field, Phase-contrast and Fluorescent microscope. Each type functions to serve different purposes, but are all able to have a range of objective lenses, between 4x and 1000x magnification.[10] Due to their mechanisms, they also have an improved resolving power and contrast in comparison to simple microscopes,[9] and can be used to view the structure, shape and motility of a cell and its organisms,[10] which can be as small as 0.1 micrometres.[11]

Electron microscopesEdit

While electron microscopes are still a form of compound microscope, their use of electron beams to illuminate objects varies in mechanism significantly from compound light microscopes, allowing them to have a much higher resolving power, and magnification approximately 10,000 times more than light microscopes.[10] These can be used to view objects such as atoms, which are as small as 0.001 micrometres.[1]



In medicine, diagnoses can be made with the assistance of microscopic observation of patient biopsies, such as cancer cells. Pathology and cytology reports include a microscopic description, which consists of analyses performed using microscopes, histochemical stains or flow cytometry. These methods can determine the structure of the diseased tissue and the severity of the disease, and early detection is possible through identification of microscopic indications of illness.[12]


During forensic investigations, trace evidence from crime scenes such as blood, fingerprints and fibres can be closely examined under microscopes, even to the extent of determining the age of a trace. Along with other specimens, biological traces can be used to accurately identify individuals present at a location, down to cells found in their blood.[13]


When assessing road materials, the microscopic composition of the infrastructure is vital in determining the longevity and safety of the road, and the different requirements of varying locations. As chemical properties such as water permeability, structural stability and heat resistance affect the performance of different materials used in pavement mixes, they are taken into consideration when building for roads according to the traffic, weather, supply and budget in that area.[14]

Microscopic Scale in the laboratoryEdit

Whilst use of the microscopic scale has many roles and purposes in the scientific field, there are many biochemical patterns observed microscopically that have contributed significantly to the understanding of how human life relies on microscopic structures to function and live.


Human CellsEdit

Genetic manipulation of energy-regulating mitochondria under microscopic principles has also been found to extend organism lifespan, tackling age-associated issues in humans such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. By increasing the amount of energy products made by mitochondria, the lifespan of its cell, and thus organism, increases.[15]


Microscopic analysis of the spatial distribution of points within DNA heterochromatin centromeres emphasise the role of the centromeric regions of chromosomes in nuclei undergoing the interphase part of cell mitosis. Such microscopic observations suggest nonrandom distribution and precise structure of centromeres during mitosis is a vital contributor to successful cell function and growth, even in cancer cells.[16]

Current researchEdit

There have been both advances in microscopic technology, and discoveries in other areas of knowledge as a result of microscopic technology.[17]

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s DiseaseEdit

In conjunction with fluorescent tagging, molecular details in singular amyloid proteins can be studied through new light microscopy techniques, and their relation to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.[18]

Atomic force microscopyEdit

Other improvements in light microscopy include the ability to view sub-wavelength, nanosized objects.[19] Nanoscale imaging via atomic force microscopy has also been improved to allow a more precise observation of small amounts of complex objects, such as cell membranes.[20]

Renewable energyEdit

Coherent microscopic patterns discovered in chemical systems support ideas of the resilience of certain substances against entropic environments. This research is being utilised to inform the productions of solar fuels, and the improvement of renewable energy.[21]

Microscopic instrument - MicroniumEdit

A microscopic instrument called the Micronium has also been developed through micromechanics, consisting of springs the thickness of human hair being plucked by microscopic comb drives. This is a very minimal movement that produces an audible noise to the human ear, which was not previously done by past attempts with microscopic instruments.[22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "The microscopic scale". Science Learning Hub. The University of Waikato. Archived from the original on 20 April 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  2. ^ Jaeger, Gregg (September 2014). "What in the (quantum) world is macroscopic?". American Journal of Physics. 82 (9): 896–905. Bibcode:2014AmJPh..82..896J. doi:10.1119/1.4878358.
  3. ^ Reif, F. (1965). Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics (International student ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill. p. 2. ISBN 007-051800-9. We shall call a system 'microscopic' (i.e., 'small scale') if it is roughly of atomic dimensions or smaller (say of the order of 10 Å or less).
  4. ^ Wills, Matthew (2018-03-27). "The Evolution of the Microscope". JSTOR Daily. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  5. ^ a b c d Naughtin (2008). "Metrication Timeline" (PDF). Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  6. ^ Jaeger, Gregg (September 2014). "What in the (quantum) world is macroscopic?". American Journal of Physics. 82 (9): 896–905. Bibcode:2014AmJPh..82..896J. doi:10.1119/1.4878358.
  7. ^ "Microscopes and telescopes". Science Learning Hub. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  8. ^ a b "Resolution". Nikon’s MicroscopyU. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  9. ^ a b c internationalmedicalaid (2020-11-19). "What Are The 5 Types Of Microscopes And Their Uses". International Medical Aid. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  10. ^ a b c "Types of Microscopes with their applications". Microbiology Note. 2020-07-07. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  11. ^ "4.1D: Cell Size". Biology LibreTexts. 2018-07-05. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  12. ^ "What information is included in a pathology report?". www.cancer.org. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  13. ^ Saadat, Saeida; Pandey, Gaurav; Tharmavaram, Maithri (2020-10-19), Rawtani, Deepak; Hussain, Chaudhery Mustansar (eds.), "Microscopy for Forensic Investigations", Technology in Forensic Science (1 ed.), Wiley, pp. 101–127, doi:10.1002/9783527827688.ch6, ISBN 978-3-527-34762-9, retrieved 2022-05-12
  14. ^ "Road materials under the microscope". Infrastructure Magazine. 2021-02-22. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  15. ^ "The microscopic structures that could hold the key to a longer, healthier life | Research and Innovation". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  16. ^ Fleischer, Frank; Beil, Michael; Kazda, Marian; Schmidt, Volker (2006-01-01), "Analysis of Spatial Point Patterns in Microscopic and Macroscopic Biological Image Data", Case Studies in Spatial Point Process Modeling, pp. 235–260, ISBN 978-0-387-28311-1, retrieved 2022-05-12
  17. ^ "Five of the most recent microscopy developments". Drug Target Review. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  18. ^ Ding, Tianben; Ding, Tianben; Wu, Tingting; Wu, Tingting; Mazidi, Hesam; Mazidi, Hesam; Zhang, Oumeng; Zhang, Oumeng; Lew, Matthew D.; Lew, Matthew D.; Lew, Matthew D. (2020-06-20). "Single-molecule orientation localization microscopy for resolving structural heterogeneities between amyloid fibrils". Optica. 7 (6): 602–607. doi:10.1364/OPTICA.388157. ISSN 2334-2536.
  19. ^ Zhu, Jinlong; Udupa, Aditi; Goddard, Lynford L. (2020-06-02). "Visualizable detection of nanoscale objects using anti-symmetric excitation and non-resonance amplification". Nature Communications. 11 (1): 2754. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-16610-0. ISSN 2041-1723.
  20. ^ Kenkel, Seth; Mittal, Shachi; Bhargava, Rohit (2020-06-26). "Closed-loop atomic force microscopy-infrared spectroscopic imaging for nanoscale molecular characterization". Nature Communications. 11 (1): 3225. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-17043-5. ISSN 2041-1723.
  21. ^ Scholes, Gregory D.; Fleming, Graham R.; Chen, Lin X.; Aspuru-Guzik, Alán; Buchleitner, Andreas; Coker, David F.; Engel, Gregory S.; van Grondelle, Rienk; Ishizaki, Akihito; Jonas, David M.; Lundeen, Jeff S. (March 2017). "Using coherence to enhance function in chemical and biophysical systems". Nature. 543 (7647): 647–656. doi:10.1038/nature21425. ISSN 0028-0836.
  22. ^ "Making music on a microscopic scale". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2022-05-12.