Highly corrected water immersion objectives have been introduced by several manufacturers for applications involving living cells and tissues.
Because of the typical refractive index of optical glass employed for microscope objectives, the highest ultimate optical performance is currently provided by oil immersion objectives. Under ideal imaging conditions, the best optical performance is achieved by use of immersion oil that exactly matches the refractive index of the objective front lens element and cover glass.
Substitution of water or another immersion medium having a higher or lower refractive index degrades this performance. However, in situations that are non-ideal, in which spherical aberration becomes the limiting factor for image quality, the use of lower-index immersion fluids can often be advantageous. Introduction of aqueous media into the optical path of an oil immersion system increases spherical aberration, and the benefits achieved by employing a water immersion objective result simply from reduction of the most significant and limiting aberration under the prevailing imaging conditions.
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