Polarized Light Microscopy Course

Course Details

This course will soon be available as an online course.

In this polarized light microscopy (PLM) training course, students learn the most direct and powerful application of polarized light to characterize and identify hundreds, if not thousands, of microscopic particle types based on their physical and optical properties. Identify contaminants, fibers, pigments, food products, pollen grains, spores, hairs, glass, combustion products, pharmaceuticals, explosives, minerals and other crystalline and non-crystalline materials can be identified rapidly and accurately with the polarizing light microscope.

The experts at Hooke College of Applied Sciences teach students how to apply both quantitative and qualitative analyses to identify particulate matter and solve microscopical materials problems. Students learn time honored and highly specialized PLM methods that can be applied successfully to the solutions of virtually all problems in the materials sciences. Training is achieved through lecture/demonstration and, above all, many practical exercises utilizing known and unknown samples.

  • Assembly, mechanical and optical alignment, calibration, and preventive maintenance of the Olympus BX51 microscope
  • Introduction to basic sample preparation techniques and considerations
  • Introduction to the principles of optical crystallography and crystal systems
  • Determination of particle size, morphology, color, texture, and magnetism in ordinary light
  • The principles of polarized light with hands-on exercises; perform refractive index determinations and observations of pleochroism and dispersion
  • The principles of cross polarized light with hands-on exercises determining isotropic versus anisotropic, birefringence using the Michel-Lévy interference color chart, and qualitative and quantitative extinction characteristics
  • The principles of compensation with hands-on exercises using 1/4λ, first-order red, and quartz wedge; how to determine sign of elongation in birefringent fibers and elongated particles
  • Introduction to contrast methods including darkfield illumination
  • Hands-on exercises using spot, solubility, and microchemical tests on known and unknown specimens
  • Introduction to auto-fluorescence and fluorescence microscopy
  • Utilization of fiber and particulate identification resources
  • Characterization and identification of common contaminants and airborne particulates including fungal spores, pollen, and household and office environment materials
  • Application of PLM methods in real-world problem-solving scenarios through characterization and identification exercises of unknown bulk materials
  • Principles, theory, and practice of polarized light microscopy (PLM)
  • Particle identification and materials characterization using a polarized light microscope
  • Overview of published reference literature
  • Chemists
  • Materials scientists
  • Geologists/Mineralogists
  • Archaeologists
  • Criminalists
  • Anyone with the need for problem solving using polarized light microscopy

All instrumentation, materials, and supplies necessary for successful completion of this course will be provided onsite by Hooke College of Applied Sciences.

“After being back in the lab for a while, I realize how much I learned in your class in just one week. All you guys do a really great job!” Proctor and Gamble

“This course was simply the best I have ever attended outside of a higher learning academic institution… The course undoubtedly serves as a solid platform for the development of polarized light microscopy capabilities in my organization.” Amgen

“The hands-on experience is awesome! The instructor really knows his stuff; he knows all of the background and theory and applies it in a practical way. Wonderful! Excellent atmosphere…” ExxonMobil

“The PLM course provided me all the information and knowledge that I was looking for… I think I’m in a much better position of conducting my project and other related works.” Catholic University of Korea

“The course is one of the only optical microscopy/polarized light courses offered in the U.S. The course provided a much needed foundation in PLM. The instructor spoke and explained clearly, and answered all questions. The access provided for question and answer sessions with the experts was very helpful also”. UES, Inc./WPAFB/A.F.R.C

Undergraduate science background.

Students are expected to complete a variety of tasks in the form of hands-on exercises, laboratory exercises, characterization and identifications of unknowns, and quizzes. Students are notified at the end of the course whether or not they have successfully completed the requirements of the course based on:

  • 100% Attendance
  • Class participation
  • Completion of all course material
  • Completed and signed student evaluation form

Upon successfully meeting these requirements, a student is awarded a certificate of completion and 3 CEU credits, if available.

Please see our General Policies page for information related to course registration and cancellation.


Accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET), an internationally recognized organization for standards and authorization for continuing education and training, Hooke College of Applied Sciences provides a research-based learning experience taught by some of the best experts in the industry.

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