Lighting Technologies – Reflectors – The Weak Link (Part 3.5)

Lighting Technologies – Reflectors – The Weak Link (Part 3.5)

Reflection is the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two different media so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated. Common examples include the reflection of light, sound and water waves. The law of reflection says that for specular reflection the angle at which the wave is incident on the surface equals the angle at which it is reflected. Mirrors exhibit specular reflection. The law of reflection states that the angle of incidence, θi, equals the angle of reflection, θr.

In acoustics, reflection causes echoes and is used in sonar. In geology, it is important in the study of seismic waves. Reflection is observed with surface waves in bodies of water. Reflection is observed with many types of electromagnetic wave, besides visible light. Reflection of VHF and higher frequencies is important for radio transmission and for radar. Even hard X-rays and gamma rays can be reflected at shallow angles with special “grazing” mirrors. Reflection of light is either specular (mirror-like) or diffuse (retaining the energy, but losing the image) depending on the nature of the interface. In specular reflection the phase of the reflected waves depends on the choice of the origin of coordinates, but the relative phase between s and p (TE and TM) polarizations is fixed by the properties of the media and of the interface between them.[1]

A mirror provides the most common model for specular light reflection, and typically consists of a glass sheet with a metallic coating where the reflection actually occurs. Reflection is enhanced in metals by suppression of wave propagation beyond their skin depths. Reflection also occurs at the surface of transparent media, such as water or glass. Reflection of light may occur whenever light travels from a medium of a given refractive index into a medium with a different refractive index. In the most general case, a certain fraction of the light is reflected from the interface, and the remainder is refracted. Solving Maxwell’s equations for a light ray striking a boundary allows the derivation of the Fresnel equations, which can be used to predict how much of the light is reflected, and how much is refracted in a given situation. This is analogous to the way impedance mismatch in an electric circuit causes reflection of signals. Total internal reflection of light from a denser medium occurs if the angle of incidence is above the critical angle.




Total internal reflection is used as a means of focusing waves that cannot effectively be reflected by common means. X-ray telescopes are constructed by creating a converging “tunnel” for the waves. As the waves interact at low angle with the surface of this tunnel they are reflected toward the focus point (or toward another interaction with the tunnel surface, eventually being directed to the detector at the focus). A conventional reflector would be useless as the X-rays would simply pass through the intended reflector. When light reflects off a material denser (with higher refractive index) than the external medium, it undergoes a polarity inversion. In contrast, a less dense, lower refractive index material will reflect lighting. This is an important principle in the field of thin-film optics.

Specular reflection forms images. Reflection from a flat surface forms a mirror image, which appears to be reversed from left to right because we compare the image we see to what we would see if we were rotated into the position of the image. Specular reflection at a curved surface forms an image which may be magnified or demagnified; curved mirrors have optical power. Such mirrors may have surfaces that are spherical or parabolic. If the reflecting surface is very smooth, the reflection of light that occurs is called specular or regular reflection. The laws of reflection are as follows:

– The incident ray, the reflected ray and the normal to the reflection surface at the point of the incidence lie in the same plane.
– The angle which the incident ray makes with the normal is equal to the angle which the reflected ray makes to the same normal.
– The reflected ray and the incident ray are on the opposite sides of the normal.

These three laws can all be derived from the Fresnel equations. In classical electrodynamics, light is considered as an electromagnetic wave, which is described by Maxwell’s equations. Light waves incident on a material induce small oscillations of polarisation in the individual atoms (or oscillation of electrons, in metals), causing each particle to radiate a small secondary wave in all directions, like a dipole antenna. All these waves add up to give specular reflection and refraction, according to the Huygens–Fresnel principle.

In the case of dielectrics such as glass, the electric field of the light acts on the electrons in the material, and the moving electrons generate fields and become new radiators. The refracted light in the glass is the combination of the forward radiation of the electrons and the incident light. The reflected light is the combination of the backward radiation of all of the electrons. In metals, electrons with no binding energy are called free electrons. When these electrons oscillate with the incident light, the phase difference between their radiation field and the incident field is π, so the forward radiation cancels the incident light, and backward radiation is just the reflected light. Light–matter interaction in terms of photons is a topic of quantum electrodynamics, and is described in detail by Richard Feynman in his popular book QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter.

When light strikes the surface of a (non-metallic) material it bounces off in all directions due to multiple reflections by the microscopic irregularities inside the material (e.g. the grain boundaries of a polycrystalline material, or the cell or fiber boundaries of an organic material) and by its surface, if it is rough. Thus, an ‘image’ is not formed. This is called diffuse reflection. The exact form of the reflection depends on the structure of the material. One common model for diffuse reflection is Lambertian reflectance, in which the light is reflected with equal luminance (in photometry) or radiance (in radiometry) in all directions, as defined by Lambert’s cosine law.

– Often Reduces The System Efficiencies
– Many Knock-Off Fixture Have Badly Made Reflectors Which Reduces The Efficiency Substantially
– Developing Modular Reflectors At A More Affordable Cost Will Have A Large Market In Many Parts Of The World