Scotchlite – How Retroreflection Works

How 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material Works

The Science of Reflectivity

Shedding Light On Reflective Technology

3M is a pioneer in developing the science behind retroreflection and has been advancing the technology in new and groundbreaking ways for over 70 years. With more than 35 different products, including many high performance options, 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material offers one of the largest and most diverse portfolios in the industry. It is a trusted name in reflective material technology. We maintain a large state of the art Visibility Research Center & Demonstration Center.

  • Scattered Reflection
    Scattered Reflection

    Retroreflectivity helps the eye perceive objects in low-light conditions when illuminated by a light source. In more scientific terms, retroreflection occurs when light rays are returned in the direction from which they came.

  • Retroreflection
    Retroreflective materials appear brightest to an observer located near the original light source, such as a car’s headlights. Since very little light is scattered when the light is returned, retroreflective materials enhance the contrast of the wearer for an observer located near the original light source.

Types of Reflection

  • Retroreflection

    A large amount of reflected light is returned directly to the original light source.

  • Diffuse Reflection
    Diffuse Reflection
    Very little light is returned to the source. Light is scattered as it hits the surface.
  • Mirror Reflection
    Mirror Reflection

    Light is reflected at the same angle as it comes in from the source. Light is not returned to the source.

Types of High Visibility Material

  • Phosphorescent

    - Needs to be exposed to light (i.e. glow in-the-dark)
    - Short lived/No daytime benefit

  • Fluorescent

    - Good daytime, dawn, & dusk benefits
    - Poor at nighttime

  • Chemiluminescence

    - Chemical Reaction(i.e. light sticks)
    - Short lived/No daytime benefit

  • Retroreflective

    - Requires light source
    - Dawn & dusk benefits
    - Great nighttime benefits-poor daytime