The Use of Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy (LSCM) in Materials Science
Laser scanning confocal microscopes are essential and ubiquitous tools in the biological, biochemical, and biomedical sciences, and play a similar role to scanning electron microscopes in materials science. However, modern laser scanning confocal microscopes have several advantages for the characterization of materials, in addition to their obvious uses for high resolution reflected and transmitted light optical microscopy. Herein, we provide several examples that exploit the laser scanning confocal microscope’s capabilities of pseudo-infinite depth of field imaging, topographic imaging, fluorescence imaging, and photo-stimulated luminescence imaging for the characterization of different materials.
Confocal microscopy is a ubiquitous technique in the life sciences, as it provides precise optical sectioning of fluorescently labeled thick specimens. To date, however, it has been underutilized in materials science. Recent advances in both instrumentation and computing power now make confocal microscopy an attractive imaging and analytical tool for materials scientists. When properly configured, a confocal microscope can serve as a high-resolution optical microscope (in either transmission or reflection) with ‘infinite’ depth of field, while at the same time serving as a non-contact optical profilometer. Combined and synchronized with an external spectrometer, techniques such as photo-stimulated luminescence spectroscopy are enabled.