3.1: Prelude to Electronic Structure
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Normal light microscopes can magnify objects up to about 1,500 times. Electron microscopes can magnify objects up to 1,000,000 times. Why can electron microscopes magnify images so much? A microscope's resolution depends on the wavelength of light used. The smaller the wavelength, the more a microscope can magnify. Light is a wave, and as such, it has a wavelength associated with it. The wavelength of visible light, which is detected by the eyes, varies from about 700 nm to about 400 nm.
A startling conclusions of modern science is that electrons also act as waves. However, the wavelength of electrons is much, much shorter—about 0.5 to 1 nm. This allows electron microscopes to magnify 600–700 times more than light microscopes. This allows us to see even smaller features in a world that is invisible to the naked eye.