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The reflected light microscope is the most commonly used tool to study the microstructure of metals, composites, ceramics, minerals, and polymers. For the study of the microstructure of metals and alloys, light microscopy is employed in the reflected-light mode using either bright-field illumination, dark-field illumination, polarized light illumination, or differential interference contract, generally by the Nomarski technique. This article concentrates on how to reveal microstructure properly to enable the proper identification of the phases and constituents and, if needed, measuring the amount, size, and spacing of constituents, using the light optical microscope. The discussion covers the examination of microstructures using different illumination methods and includes a comparison between light optical images and scanning electron microscopy images of microstructure.

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