American Journal of Physics

A case study for optics: The solid immersion microscope

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Microscopes are natural objects of study in introductory and upper level courses that cover optics because they are used in most science and engineering disciplines. The solid immersion microscope has been developed to study a variety of physical systems with high resolution and we suggest its inclusion in upper level optics courses. We briefly describe the solid immersion microscope in the context of geometrical optics and a desktop demonstration. We use the angular spectrum representation to calculate the focal fields produced by a conventional microscope and a solid immersion microscope. We also suggest a simple model for lens aberration and perform numerically the focal field calculations with and without aberrations to enable users to compare the performance of conventional and solid immersion microscopes. These calculations can help users develop intuition about the sensitivity of microscope performance to real-world manufacturing tolerances and to the limitations and capabilities of microscopy. © 2008 American Association of Physics Teachers.