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differential interference contrast microscopy

Differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy, sometimes called Nomarski Microscopy after the inventor Georges Nomarski, is one of several methods used to obtain microscope images of transparent objects. In DIC, the illumination source is divided into two orthogonally polarized beams using a birefringent prism in the objective. These are made to pass through the sample with a deliberate slight lateral offset (shear). They are recombined in a second Nomarski prism. Interference then converts any phase differences in the two beams into intensity differences in the combined image. The final image contrast depends on the phase difference between the two beams, which depends in turn on the thickness and refractive index of the sample. DIC does not indicate absolute sample thickness. Rather, the contrast is roughly proportional to the thickness gradient, which is typical of shear-type imaging methods.
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