I am a non-bio student working on an academic paper recently and would like to have some sample preparation for phase contrast microscope.

For it to work, I imagine the sample to be:

  • Transparent;

  • Easy to obtain from daily stuffs;

  • Easy to slice and prepare (i.e. approachable to people untrained in bio).

  • Best dimension around 10 micros, and is well seen under x100.

  • Preferable to be seen dynamics at room temperature.

My current thoughts are:

  • Human: oral cheek cells, red blood smear, sperm.

  • Plants: onion surface cells.

  • Others: yeast, pond water.

Any further suggestions (especially dynamic ones)? Thanks!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Since phase contrast microscopy is a rather old technique, you might find a book on microscopy with sample preparation protocols in the library of your institution. And here a protocol from the web education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Information/… $\endgroup$ – fabianegli Jul 27 '18 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ @fabianegli Thanks for the helpful link. Though I would prefer easier ways (instead of following the protocols) to prepare the samples, so as to save time and funding. The samples are for demo usage, so protocols are beyond sufficient. $\endgroup$ – WDC Jul 27 '18 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ Do you want to prepare the samples at the time of the demo or should they be stored days/weeks/months/years before the demo? Dynamic samples are normally wet samples and they have to be prepared fresh. For demo purpose, I would not take any body fluids, since you work with glass (danger of cutting the skin, including oral cheek skin) and the combination can pose a serious rick for infections. Also a blood smear is looked at when it is dry and would thus not be dynamic. $\endgroup$ – fabianegli Aug 2 '18 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @fabianegli Thanks for the reply. The samples should be prepared at the time of demo. That’s exactly the reason why I would like an “easy-to-obtain” sample, especially for the dynamic ones. For now I have already tried on blood smear and oral cheek skin, they look good! However I should still need some suggestions for dynamic samples. $\endgroup$ – WDC Aug 2 '18 at 16:12

Any green, soft leaf from a non-toxic plant is a good start. Cut a thin slice from the leaf (either to look at the cross-section or the surface). Try different leafs with different colors - there might be colors in the cytosol and/or in chromoplasts.

Concrete example for dynamic structures:

  • Elodea leafs: they consist of only two cell layers and can be looked at under the microscope without further preparation. Keep the the leaf in water and cover it with a cover slide before looking at it under the microscope and add water when it starts drying out. The green chloroplasts in the plant cells are moving around as long as the cell lives.

You might find Elodea either in a pond or in a store selling aquarium fish and the like. You can keep Elodea alive and grow it in nutritious water at a sunny place.


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