We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Retroreflector?

Andrew Kirmayer
By Andrew Kirmayer
Updated Jan 31, 2024
Our promise to you
AllTheScience is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At AllTheScience, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A retroreflector reflects incoming light and directs it back to its source. The light is reflected parallel to the direction it came from, but in the completely opposite direction. Common types include the corner cube retroreflector, which can send light back long distances and is useful on highways. Other common types are mirrors, paints, tapes, and retroreflective arrays, such as those that have been placed on the moon or satellites. Retroreflection can be accomplished with corner shaped or spherical elements as well as with phase conjugation, an optical phenomenon that can accurately direct light in lasers and optical transmission lines.

Corner retroreflectors are most commonly made of transparent optical glass. The light is reflected either completely by internal optics or by a coating on the outer surface. Another kind of this type of retroreflector has perpendicular mirrors that border an open space. These corner reflectors are sometimes used on roadways, although spherical reflectors cause light to return at a slightly different angle. This prevents bright headlights of other vehicles from shining in a driver’s eyes and blinding them.

There are many road related applications for a retroreflector. Such devices can be embedded, so that they are even with the road surface, or installed as raised devices. Ones that are raised are rarely seen in places where it snows, because plows would tear them out. Retroreflective paint does not cause wear of the road surface to accelerate, like embedded devices do, although the paint gets worn away by weather and vehicles passing over it.

On several moon missions, a retroreflector array was placed aboard equipment to track lunar rotation and position as well as to disprove theories that such landings were hoaxes. Such devices were used on some Apollo as well as Russian missions. The laser ranging retroreflector was, and still is, used for this purpose, and can be tracked periodically using earth-based telescopes.

Retroreflector products are also used on boats as well as life rafts and other floatation systems. There are also retroreflectors used on clothing for certain photography applications, and others that are used for surveying and for disabling digital cameras. The glowing effect of eyes is an example of retroreflection, as the reflection of light from the lens, eye fluid, and behind the retina causes an effect that any retroreflector provides, regardless of its type.

AllTheScience is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.