An antireflective or anti-reflection (AR) coating is a type of optical coating applied to the surface of lenses and other optical devices to reduce reflection. This improves the efficiency of the system since less light is lost. In complex systems such as a telescope, the reduction in reflections also improves the contrast of the image by elimination of stray light. This is especially important in planetary astronomy. In other applications, the primary benefit is the elimination of the reflection itself, such as a coating on eyeglass lenses that makes the eyes of the wearer more visible to others, or a coating to reduce the glint from a covert viewer's binoculars or telescopic sight.
Many coatings consist of transparent thin film structures with alternating layers of contrasting refractive index. Layer thicknesses are chosen to produce destructive interference in the beams reflected from the interfaces, and constructive interference in the corresponding transmitted beams. This makes the structure's performance change with wavelength and incident angle, so that color effects often appear at oblique angles. A wavelength range must be specified when designing or ordering such coatings, but good performance can often be achieved for a relatively wide range of frequencies: usually a choice of IR, visible, or UV is offered.
Interference-based coatings were invented in November 1935 by Alexander Smakula, who was working for the Carl Zeiss optics company. Anti-reflection coatings were a German military secret until the early stages of World War II. Katharine Burr Blodgett and Irving Langmuir developed organic anti-reflection coatings in the late 1930s.
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