Small But Essential: A Quick Breakdown of Microscope Slides

If you’ve ever used a microscope, chances are you’ve come in contact with microscope slides. These handy little devices trap your specimens in an easy-to-transport, easy-to-view portable frame. But what distinguishes a good slide from a bad one? How can you tell whether or not a microscope slide is worth your time?

We’ll break down all the characteristics of microscope slides so that you can figure out what makes a good one, how to store them properly, and more. Let’s get into all the different ways you can categorize and differentiate these slides from one another.


The Purpose of Microscope Slides

Microscope slides are an essential part of using microscopes. Without them, there wouldn’t be any way to stabilize specimens or aptly hold down various subjects for advanced visual analysis. Microscope slides might seem like a very simple scientific tool, but the truth is that they have been intensely designed to be not only very usable but also incredibly user-friendly.

While these slides might seem like the most intuitive scientific tools imaginable, the truth is that these devices had to be manufactured to be highly usable and easily approachable to people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Scientist placing a slide on a microscope

Glass Slides vs Plastic Slides

There are a variety of slides available on the market. But is there a difference between glass slides and plastic slides and how they function? In many ways, the two types are essentially the same. Not only will they sandwich samples effectively, they’ll even stick together similarly, thanks to static electricity.

The only significant difference between the two is when you consider which slide surface is more hydrophilic or hydrophobic. If you’ve ever worked closely with sample preparation techniques to analyze with microscopes and other tools, you know how useful a hydrophobic or hydrophilic material might be.

Plastic microscope slides are notoriously more hydrophobic than glass microscope slides, but this is the only significant difference worth noting between the two. Plus, it’s only applicable for certain types of plastic, so it might not even matter, depending on what kind of plastic slides you’re working with.

Just keep in mind what kinds of plastics you’re using when utilizing any kind of microscope. Remembering what kinds of tools you’re using will be a significant boon when trying to understand why the things you’re working with are behaving how they’re behaving.

Preparation of Microscope Slides

There are many best practices to follow when making use of microscope slides. The most obvious example to follow is to ensure you have thoroughly researched and analyzed whatever sample you’re working with. There is nothing worse than trying to conduct an in-depth analysis of a sample only to realize that it hasn’t been properly stabilized.

We recommend you find out as much as possible about any sample before trying to investigate it thoroughly. For example, what about the thickness of your cell or tissue specimen? Do you need thin sections? Any special stains? Certain samples should be kept in certain conditions, so you should ensure you know what you’re doing before putting any specimen under a microscope.

Accurately labeling different specimens is also essential to effectively using microscope slides. There’s nothing worse than analyzing a subject that isn’t correctly labeled. One of the best parts of utilizing microscope slides is that they are easy to label using slide marking pens. They are easy to distinguish, so take advantage of that fact and clearly differentiate your samples and specimens from one another.

Line up of glass microscope slides on white surface

Making Practical Use of Microscope Slides

While microscope slides might seem like a humble invention, these devices have made it much easier to categorize a sample, specimen, and anything else you might be examining under a microscope. They are used for routine applications in cytology, histology, and other special stains.

When it comes to practicality, a microscope slide is intensely pragmatic. Whether it has ground edges or clipped corners, as long as it has comfortable handling, you can examine cell or tissue sections easily, thanks to microscope slides!

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