Archaeological evidences had established that mirrors made of polished metal were in use during the Iron Age. The Egyptians had silver and bronze mirrors by 2500 B.C.
A mirror is made of a sheet of glass on the back of which is sprayed a thin layer of silver or aluminium. It produces images by reflection. They obey the laws of reflection. A ray of light strikes the mirror and is reflected into our eyes. The kind and size of the images depend on the shape and structure of the mirror. Do you know how many types of mirrors are there?
The mirrors can have flat or curved surfaces. A flat mirror is called a plane mirror. The image seen in a plane mirror is called a virtual image. Although we can see it, it cannot be projected onto a screen. This is because the image appears to be formed behind the mirror. The image in a plane mirror is erect but laterally inverted, i.e. the right-hand side of an object becomes the left-hand side in the image and vice versa. The image is always of the same size as the object. The plane mirrors are used in homes for seeing oneself, decorative purposes and in many optical instruments.
There are two different types of curved mirrors - convex and concave. The convex mirrors curve outwards and concave mirrors inwards. The image in a convex mirror is always smaller than the object. The image is erect and virtual. The convex mirrors are used as review mirrors in automobiles. They allow the driver to see a large area of the road behind him.
The image in a concave mirror depends on how far the object is from the mirror. If the object is placed close to the mirror, its image is virtual and magnified. A magnified image is larger than the object. Since they have magnifying properties, the concave mirrors are used as shaving mirrors. If the object is beyond a certain distance from the mirror the nature of image changes. It becomes smaller than the object and upside down. The image now lies in front of the mirror and is said to be real. A real image can be projected onto a screen.
The curved mirrors also have cylindrical, parabolic and ellipsoidal surfaces. The cylindrical mirrors focus a parallel beam of light to a line focus. A parabolic mirror may be used to focus parallel rays to a real focus. These are used in telescopes and search lights. An ellipsoidal mirror reflects light from one of its two focal points to the other.
The mirrors are produced by coating the glass surfaces with metallic silver. This is done through a chemical process. Sometimes even copper and gold are used for the purpose. Mirrors are also being produced by vacuum deposition of silver or aluminium on glass surfaces. Most of the mirrors are coated with aluminium because as compared to silver it is less expensive.