What should be the value of numerical aperture?

Numerical Aperture: An Overview

The Numerical Aperture (NA) is a critical parameter in optical engineering, defining the ability of an optical system to gather light and resolve fine specimen detail at a fixed object distance. It is a dimensionless number that characterizes the range of angles over which the system can accept or emit light. The value of NA influences both the brightness and the resolution of the image formed by an optical system.

Formula and Value

The numerical aperture is calculated using the formula:

NA = n * sin(θ)

where n is the refractive index of the medium between the lens and the specimen, and θ is the half-angle of the maximum cone of light that can enter or exit the lens. In air, n is typically 1, making the NA dependent on the angle θ.

Optimal Value

The optimal value of NA depends on the specific application and the balance between resolution and depth of field. A higher NA allows for higher resolution imaging, as it can capture more angular light information. However, this comes at the cost of a shallower depth of field. For most microscopy applications, a higher NA is desirable for resolving finer details. In fiber optics, the NA determines the light-gathering ability of the fiber and affects the coupling efficiency between the fiber and light sources or other fibers.


When selecting or designing optical systems, the NA is a crucial factor to consider. It affects not only the resolution and brightness but also the depth of field and the specific applications the system can be used for. Optical components must be carefully selected to match the NA requirements of the system to ensure optimal performance.

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