Calibrating excitation light fluxes for quantitative light microscopy in cell biology

David Grunwald, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Shailesh M. Shenoy, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Sean Burke, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Robert H. Singer, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

At the time of publication, David Grünwald was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.


Power output of light bulbs changes over time and the total energy delivered will depend on the optical beam path of the microscope, filter sets and objectives used, thus making comparison between experiments performed on different microscopes complicated. Using a thermocoupled power meter, it is possible to measure the exact amount of light applied to a specimen in fluorescence microscopy, regardless of the light source, as the light power measured can be translated into a power density at the sample. This widely used and simple tool forms the basis of a new degree of calibration precision and comparability of results among experiments and setups. Here we describe an easy-to-follow protocol that allows researchers to precisely estimate excitation intensities in the object plane, using commercially available opto-mechanical components. The total duration of this protocol for one objective and six filter cubes is 75 min including start-up time for the lamp.