What Are Refractometer Microscopes?
Ernst Abbe invented the refractometer microscope in 1869, and it is often called the Abbe refractometer. It looked like a regular microscope, but the device uses two prisms: one light-reflecting and the other refracting. The item being evaluated is placed between these two prisms. However, based on this initial concept, there are now many refractometer types (and shapes), such as digital, hand-held, and inline. What we find most interesting is the impressive variety of uses these scopes can be put to. Let’s explore refractometer microscopes by application and raise a glass to Mr. Abbe!
The laboratory device measures the refractive index of materials, which is the measurement of the value of the bending of light when passing from one medium to another. The optical tool is used to capture and measure this dimensionless number.
Refractometer Microscopes by Application
Food and Beverage
Within the food and beverage industries, using the refractometer microscope is common, serves diverse purposes, and is greatly helpful. Typically, the tool is applied to measurements of sugar content, salinity, and solids.
You can use the optical tool to measure the ripeness of fruits by applying juice onto the prism, which measures the sugar content and thus the ripeness for evaluation of harvest times and shelf life. Farmers’ fruits are often ranked on a payment structure dependent upon the ripeness and sweetness of their harvests, thus increasing profit margins through testing.
Similarly, the sugar content in soft drinks can be measured and evaluated, which assists companies with their quality assurance programs. Beekeepers use refractometer microscopes to measure the level of moisture contained within honey. Other high-sugar food substances such as jam, marmalade, and sauces use this method to measure sugar levels and ensure product control quality.
Across the winemaking and brewery industries, it is imperative to pinpoint the exact alcohol and sugar content within alcoholic beverages to comply with FDA rulings and to ensure that all beverages contain the precise level of alcohol.
Solids are measured within various products, such as baby food and yogurt. More specialized refractometers can also measure salinity in canned and processed foods.
Overall, using refractometers in the food and beverage industry is essential to control quality, ingredients, and purity. There is a surprising amount of fraud within the food and beverage industry in which manufacturers substitute ingredients for a cheaper variant. Refractometry is one tool to assist in preventing this.
Refractometer Microscopes by Application: Pharmaceuticals
Within the pharmaceutical industry, refractometry is common practice, specifically in the measurement and control of liquid substances, which is a large component of the industry. The purity of a sample is essential for quality and safety purposes.
Typically, refractometers are used in toxicology, drug monitoring, and compounding practices. While using the RI (refractive index) has been common across other industries for decades, it is still a relatively new practice in the pharmaceutical industry.
Besides traditional pharmaceuticals, refractometry is also used in bio-pharma and monitoring vaccines, blood plasma, and cell cultures. RI is specifically helpful in measuring the protein levels within plasma and serum.
The use of RI within the pharma community is widely perceived as a giant leap forward in adhering to the rigorous standards set forth by the FDA regarding PAT (Process Analytical Technology) to safeguard the mass production of new drugs.
Refractometer Microscopes by Application: Chemical
Much like the pharmaceutical industry, the chemical industry relies on precise measurements of the concentration of solutions. Using a refractometer, chemical facilities can validate their end products’ purity, concentration, and quality.
A few working examples of refractometers in action is the production of dimethylformamide, or DMF for short. This compound is used in a variety of ways as a universal solvent for an array of purposes. Predominantly used for processing other materials, there is a demand for DMF in a broad spectrum of concentrations. Through RI, it is possible to correctly assess the concentration level of the final product to ensure that the concentration level is correct.
Similarly, antifreeze coolant, like other dilutable products, must be at the correct dilution level for the freezing point to be accurate. The refractor is a valuable method of reviewing the chemical process throughout production.
Within the research and development field, refractometer usage is beneficial for random testing, compliance evaluation for national and international standards, and any test in which composition, purity, and pinpoint measurements are required.
Features and Benefits of Refractometer Microscopes
Refractometers are popular across many industries as they are known for their high accuracy and precision, which is often why they are used for identification purposes – every substance when evaluated, has a unique identifier.
Another great benefit is the non-destructive nature of the sampling process, which requires very small samples. The real-time monitoring enabling process control is another huge benefit to sampling throughout the production cycle as a form of quality control. The tool is also hugely versatile and adaptable to the types of products being sampled and the environment in which the sampling occurs.
What is the difference between a refractometer microscope and a regular one?
A refractometer is an optical instrument used to measure the refraction of a beam of light to decipher the refractive index of the substance being evaluated. The result is that the refractometer can accurately identify specimens and measure the concentration, purity, and solid content.
A traditional microscope is constructed of curved glass, which refracts light rays to amplify the magnification of the item under review.
What types of samples can be analyzed with a refractometer microscope?
Most commonly, the refractometer is used to measure liquids and fluids; it can measure the concentration of liquids.
Can a refractometer microscope be used for quality control?
A refractometer is a perfect tool for quality control and assurance. It can precisely assess purity, concentration, solid content, sugar, and alcohol levels and assist with compliance reviews before the sale. Because of these qualities and performance capabilities, the refractometer is being used across multiple industries as a quality control and quality assurance tool.
What are some common accessories used with refractometer microscopes?
The great thing about refractometers is that they don’t need many accessories. Buying a protective case would probably be wise if you plan to travel or move around with the tool. A lens cleaner and plastic pipette would also be a good idea, depending on what kind of sampling is being done.