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Air Condenser, 0.9 NA
Oil Immersion Condenser,
The CSC1001 Condenser
D3N Dovetail Adapter with
C4X Lens Mounted in CN1 Tray Enables Compatibility with 4X Objectives
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When sending a collimated beam into the condenser the light will be focused onto the sample plane (green ray). In this case the sample plane will be conjugate to the light source, which can lead to forming an image of the light source rather than the sample.
To correct for this, an input beam that is focused (i.e., Köhler Illumination) onto the aperture stop of the condenser can be used (blue ray). In this case, conjugate planes are created at the field stop, condenser aperture stop, and the objective's back focal plane. A collimated beam will then be present at the sample.
To support home-built Cerna® microscope systems, Thorlabs offers four achromatic condensers. Designed for upright microscopes, these condensers collect light emitted by an illumination source to illuminate transmissive samples from beneath the objective. They are used in several transmitted light imaging modalities, including brightfield illumination, Dodt contrast, and differential interference contrast (DIC) imaging, and have an internal turret or tray to mount one or more condenser prisms, illumination masks, and/or other optics.
Aperture Stop Diaphragm
Condenser Mounting with D3N Dovetail
Condenser Trays and Turrets
Adapters for DIY Light Conditioning Setups
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This photo shows the male D1N dovetail on the trinoculars next to the female D1N dovetail on the epi-illumination arm.
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This photo shows the male 95 mm dovetail on the microscope body and the female 95 mm dovetail on the CSA1002 Fixed Arm.
Introduction to Microscope Dovetails
Dovetails are used for mechanical mating and optical port alignment of microscope components. Components are connected by inserting one dovetail into another, then tightening one or more locking setscrews on the female dovetail. Dovetails come in two shapes: linear and circular. Linear dovetails allow the mating components to slide before being locked down, providing flexible positioning options while limiting unneeded degrees of freedom. Circular dovetails align optical ports on different components, maintaining a single optical axis with minimal user intervention.
Thorlabs manufactures many components which use dovetails to mate with our own components or those of other manufacturers. To make it easier to identify dovetail compatibility, we have developed a set of dovetail designations. The naming convention of these designations is used only by Thorlabs and not other microscope manufacturers. The table to the right lists all the dovetails Thorlabs makes, along with their key dimensions.
In the case of Thorlabs’ Cerna® microscopes, different dovetail types are used on different sections of the microscope to ensure that only compatible components can be mated. For example, our WFA2002 Epi-Illuminator Module has a male D1N dovetail that mates with the female D1N dovetail on the microscope body's epi-illumination arm, while the CSS2001 XY Microscopy Stage has a female D1Y dovetail that mates with the male D1Y dovetail on the CSA1051 Mounting Arm.
To learn which dovetail type(s) are on a particular component, consult its mechanical drawing, available by clicking on the red Docs icon () below. For adapters with a female dovetail, the drawing also indicates the size of the hex key needed for the locking setscrew(s). It is important to note that mechanical compatibility does not ensure optical compatibility. Information on optical compatibility is available from Thorlabs' web presentations.
For customers interested in machining their own dovetails, the table to the right gives the outer diameter and angle (as defined by the drawings below) of each Thorlabs dovetail designation. However, the dovetail's height must be determined by the user, and for circular dovetails, the user must also determine the inner diameter and bore diameter. These quantities can vary for dovetails of the same type. One can use the intended mating part to verify compatibility.
In order to reduce wear and simplify connections, dovetails are often machined with chamfers, recesses, and other mechanical features. Some examples of these variations are shown by the drawings below.
Standard Mechanical Interfaces on DIY Cerna® Components
The table below gives the dovetail, optical component threads, and cage system interfaces that are present on each DIY Cerna component. If a DIY Cerna component does not have one of the standard interfaces in the table, it is not listed here. Please note that mechanical compatibility does not ensure optical compatibility. Information on optical compatibility is available from Thorlabs' web presentations.
Building a Cerna® Microscope
The Cerna microscopy platform's large working volume and system of dovetails make it straightforward to connect and position the components of the microscope. This flexibility enables simple and stable set up of a preconfigured microscope, and provides easy paths for later upgrades and modification. See below for a couple examples of the assembly of preconfigured and DIY Cerna microscopes.
Preconfigured Microscope Kit Design and Assembly
Walkthrough of Cerna® Microscope Kit 4
This Cerna microscope configuration is equipped with both epi- and trans-illumination modules. All Cerna preconfigured microscope kits enable individual components to be removed or substituted for complete customization.
Microscope Kit 4 Assembly
The D1N and D2N circular dovetails align the sample viewing and epi-illumination apparatus along the optical path. The microscope body's 95 mm linear dovetail is used to secure the objective mounts and condenser mounts, as well as the transmitted light illumination module. The dovetail allows components to slide along the vertical rail prior to lockdown.
DIY Cerna Design and Assembly
Walkthrough of a DIY Microscope Configuration
This DIY microscope uses a CSA3000(/M) Breadboard Top, a CSA2001 Dovetail Adapter, our CSA1001 and CSA1002 Fixed Arms, and other body attachments and extensions. These components provide interfaces to our lens tube and cage construction systems, allowing the rig to incorporate two independent trans-illumination modules, a home-built epi-illumination path, and a custom sample viewing optical path.
DIY Microscope Configuration Assembly
The simplicity of Thorlabs optomechanical interfaces allows a custom DIY microscope to be quickly assembled and reconfigured for custom imaging applications.
Click on the different parts of the microscope to explore their functions.
Elements of a Microscope
This overview was developed to provide a general understanding of a Cerna® microscope. Click on the different portions of the microscope graphic to the right or use the links below to learn how a Cerna microscope visualizes a sample.
Arm: Holds components in the optical path of the microscope.
Bayonet Mount: A form of mechanical attachment with tabs on the male end that fit into L-shaped slots on the female end.
Bellows: A tube with accordion-shaped rubber sides for a flexible, light-tight extension between the microscope body and the objective.
Breadboard: A flat structure with regularly spaced tapped holes for DIY construction.
Dovetail: A form of mechanical attachment for many microscopy components. A linear dovetail allows flexible positioning along one dimension before being locked down, while a circular dovetail secures the component in one position. See the Microscope Dovetails tab or here for details.
Epi-Illumination: Illumination on the same side of the sample as the viewing apparatus. Epi-fluorescence, reflected light, and confocal microscopy are some examples of imaging modalities that utilize epi-illumination.
Filter Cube: A cube that holds filters and other optical elements at the correct orientations for microscopy. For example, filter cubes are essential for fluorescence microscopy and reflected light microscopy.
Köhler Illumination: A method of illumination that utilizes various optical elements to defocus and flatten the intensity of light across the field of view in the sample plane. A condenser and light collimator are necessary for this technique.
Nosepiece: A type of arm used to hold the microscope objective in the optical path of the microscope.
Optical Path: The path light follows through the microscope.
Rail Height: The height of the support rail of the microscope body.
Throat Depth: The distance from the vertical portion of the optical path to the edge of the support rail of the microscope body. The size of the throat depth, along with the working height, determine the working space available for microscopy.
Trans-Illumination: Illumination on the opposite side of the sample as the viewing apparatus. Brightfield, differential interference contrast (DIC), Dodt gradient contrast, and darkfield microscopy are some examples of imaging modalities that utilize trans-illumination.
Working Height: The height of the support rail of the microscope body plus the height of the base. The size of the working height, along with the throat depth, determine the working space available for microscopy.
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Cerna Microscope Body
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The microscope body provides the foundation of any Cerna microscope. The support rail utilizes 95 mm rails machined to a high angular tolerance to ensure an aligned optical path and perpendicularity with the optical table. The support rail height chosen (350 - 600 mm) determines the vertical range available for experiments and microscopy components. The 7.74" throat depth, or distance from the optical path to the support rail, provides a large working space for experiments. Components attach to the body by way of either a linear dovetail on the support rail, or a circular dovetail on the epi-illumination arm (on certain models). Please see the Microscope Dovetails tab or here for further details.
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Illumination with a Cerna microscope can come from above (yellow) or below (orange). Illumination sources (green) attach to either.
Using the Cerna microscope body, a sample can be illuminated in two directions: from above (epi-illumination, see yellow components to the right) or from below (trans-illumination, see orange components to the right).
Epi-illumination illuminates on the same side of the sample as the viewing apparatus; therefore, the light from the illumination source (green) and the light from the sample plane share a portion of the optical path. It is used in fluorescence, confocal, and reflected light microscopy. Epi-illumination modules, which direct and condition light along the optical path, are attached to the epi-illumination arm of the microscope body via a circular D1N dovetail (see the Microscope Dovetails tab or here for details). Multiple epi-illumination modules are available, as well as breadboard tops, which have regularly spaced tapped holes for custom designs.
Trans-illumination illuminates from the opposite side of the sample as the viewing apparatus. Example imaging modalities include brightfield, differential interference contrast (DIC), Dodt gradient contrast, oblique, and darkfield microscopy. Trans-illumination modules, which condition light (on certain models) and direct it along the optical path, are attached to the support rail of the microscope body via a linear dovetail (see Microscope Dovetails tab or here). Please note that certain imaging modalities will require additional optics to alter the properties of the beam; these optics may be easily incorporated in the optical path via lens tubes and cage systems. In addition, Thorlabs offers condensers, which reshape input collimated light to help create optimal Köhler illumination. These attach to a mounting arm, which holds the condenser at the throat depth, or the distance from the optical path to the support rail. The arm attaches to a focusing module, used for aligning the condenser with respect to the sample and trans-illumination module.
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Light from the sample plane is collected through an objective (blue) and viewed using trinocs or other optical ports (pink).
Once illuminated, examining a sample with a microscope requires both focusing on the sample plane (see blue components to the right) and visualizing the resulting image (see pink components).
A microscope objective collects and magnifies light from the sample plane for imaging. On the Cerna microscope, the objective is threaded onto a nosepiece, which holds the objective at the throat depth, or the distance from the optical path to the support rail of the microscope body. This nosepiece is secured to a motorized focusing module, used for focusing the objective as well as for moving it out of the way for sample handling. To ensure a light-tight path from the objective, the microscope body comes with a bellows (not pictured).
Various modules are available for sample viewing and data collection. Trinoculars have three points of vision to view the sample directly as well as with a camera. Double camera ports redirect or split the optical path among two viewing channels. Camera tubes increase or decrease the image magnification. For data collection, Thorlabs offers both cameras and photomultiplier tubes (PMTs), the latter being necessary to detect fluorescence signals for confocal microscopy. Breadboard tops provide functionality for custom-designed data collection setups. Modules are attached to the microscope body via a circular dovetail (see the Microscope Dovetails tab or here for details).
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The rigid stand (purple) pictured is one of various sample mounting options available.
Various sample and equipment mounting options are available to take advantage of the large working space of this microscope system. Large samples and ancillary equipment can be mounted via mounting platforms, which fit around the microscope body and utilize a breadboard design with regularly spaced tapped through holes. Small samples can be mounted on rigid stands (for example, see the purple component to the right), which have holders for different methods of sample preparation and data collection, such as slides, well plates, and petri dishes. For more traditional sample mounting, slides can also be mounted directly onto the microscope body via a manual XY stage. The rigid stands can translate by way of motorized stages (sold separately), while the mounting platforms contain built-in mechanics for motorized or manual translation. Rigid stands can also be mounted on top of the mounting platforms for independent and synchronized movement of multiple instruments, if you are interested in performing experiments simultaneously during microscopy.
For sample viewing, Thorlabs offers trinoculars, double camera ports, and camera tubes. Light from the sample plane can be collected via cameras, photomultiplier tubes (PMTs), or custom setups using breadboard tops. Click here for additional information about viewing samples with a Cerna microscope.
Microscope objectives are held in the optical path of the microscope via a nosepiece. Click here for additional information about viewing a sample with a Cerna microscope.
Large and small experiment mounting options are available to take advantage of the large working space of this microscope. Click here for additional information about mounting a sample for microscopy.
Thorlabs offers various light sources for epi- and trans-illumination. Please see the full web presentation of each to determine its functionality within the Cerna microscopy platform.
Epi-illumination illuminates the sample on the same side as the viewing apparatus. Example imaging modalities include fluorescence, confocal, and reflected light microscopy. Click here for additional information on epi-illumination with Cerna.
Trans-illumination illuminates from the opposite side of the sample as the viewing apparatus. Example imaging modalities include brightfield, differential interference contrast (DIC), Dodt gradient contrast, oblique, and darkfield microscopy. Click here for additional information on trans-illumination with Cerna.
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One C32 Tray is Included with the Condenser and Additional Trays can be Purchased to Accommodate Various Optics
This achromatic air condenser is designed to be used with dry objectives. It is equipped with an adjustable aperture stop diaphragm that is controlled by a lever on the side, as shown in the drawing below.
The CSC2001 contains an internal slot that accommodates trays designed to mount various optics. Magnets in the tray and inside the slot ensure easy exchange and repeatable positioning of optics within the condenser. The CSC2001 condenser comes with one C32 tray for mounting Ø32 mm optics. Additionally, we offer the CN1 and CN2 trays for use with DIC condenser prisms and the CSM tray for mounting Ø1" optics. For tray specifications see the table below.
The CSC2001 works out-of-the-box with objectives ranging from 10X to 100X by adjusting the cone of illumination with the aperture diaphragm. For compatibility with 4X objective lenses, we offer the C4X lens, which is easily positioned within the CSC2001 using a CN1 tray (all items sold separately). For C4X specifications see the table below.
These achromatic air condensers are designed to be used with dry objectives. They are equipped with an adjustable aperture stop diaphragm that is controlled by a lever on the side, as shown in the below drawing.
The CSC1001 and CSC1002 each contain an internal turret with four or seven slots, respectively, that is designed to mount DIC condenser prisms and illumination masks. This feature makes these condensers ideal for use in brightfield and oblique illumination, Dodt contrast, and DIC imaging. Please see the table to the left for the slots available in each turret. Each slot can be rotated into the beam path using a knurled dial on the side of the condenser. Labels are included that can be attached to the dial to indicate which slot is currently in the optical path. As shown in the photo below, the turret's slots can be accessed by removing the top cover using a 5/64" (2 mm) hex key.
For DIC imaging, Thorlabs offers N1 and N2 dry condenser prisms as well as N1 and N2 dry objectives. Note that an objective will have an N1 or N2 engraving to denote compatibility with a condenser prism.
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Air Condensers have Internal Turrets for DIC Condenser Prisms
(Item # CSC1002 Shown)
The CSC1003 achromatic oil-immersion condenser can be used with dry, oil-immersion, or water-immersion objectives due to its large 1.4 NA. It is equipped with an adjustable aperture stop diaphragm that is controlled by a lever on the side, as shown in the below drawing.
The condenser includes one removable tray that accepts a DIC NR condenser prism. As shown in the photo below, the tray has a tab that protrudes from the housing that can be used to remove it from the condenser. Please contact Tech Support for inserts designed to mount N1 or N2 condenser prisms.
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CSC1003 Oil Immersion Condenser has Tray for DIC NR Condenser Prisms
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LCPN1 Adapter Attached to Inverted Nikon Eclipse Condenser Holder
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Our CSA2001 adapter has a female D3N dovetail that mates to the male D3N dovetail on a condenser. Here, the external SM2 threads on the adapter are threaded into our CXY2 mount.
These condenser adapters allow DIY light conditioning setups to be integrated into a Cerna microscope.
The CSA2001 adapter is used to mount a condenser with a male D3N dovetail to an optical assembly that uses Thorlabs' SM2 lens tubes. A 2 mm hex setscrew is included to secure the dovetail of the adapter to the condenser.
The LCPN1 adapter allows the user to attach a custom-built condenser or other light conditioning module to a Cerna, inverted Nikon Eclipse Ti, or upright Nikon Eclipse microscope. The adapter utilizes the same male D3N dovetail as the above condensers; see the Microscope Dovetails tab for details. It features internal SM30 (M30.5 x 0.5) threading for Ø30 mm lens tubes; two SM30RR retaining rings are included to secure an optic inside the adapter. Through holes with side-located locking 8-32 setscrews (5/64" [2 mm] hex) can be used to attach Ø6 mm cage rods for 60 mm cage systems. The side opposite the dovetail has 4-40 tapped holes on 30 mm centers for 30 mm cage systems.