Retroreflection.  Luminescence.  Microprisms.  What are these things, anyway?  They are fancy terms for a very simple idea—reflective!

What is reflective material made of?

Basically, reflective material is nothing more than glass beads bonded to a material, creating microprisms that capture light and reflect it back to the source.  It can take the form of reflective tape, seam binding, thread, or coatings (to name a few).

 


Glass Bead Retroreflection

 

How does it work?

When a light shines on the reflective material, retroreflection occurs.  Retroreflection bounces the light rays off of the microprisms in the reflective material, returning the rays to the original light source.  The retroreflection looks the brightest to an observer closest to the light source—such as the driver of a car whose headlights hit the reflector on a bike–which is why you don’t always see reflective effects from certain angles.

 


Microprism retroreflection