|Publication number||USRE40227 E1|
|Application number||US 10/616,530|
|Publication date||Apr 8, 2008|
|Filing date||Jul 10, 2003|
|Priority date||Nov 21, 1985|
|Publication number||10616530, 616530, US RE40227 E1, US RE40227E1, US-E1-RE40227, USRE40227 E1, USRE40227E1|
|Inventors||Sanford Cobb, Jr.|
|Original Assignee||3M Innovative Properties Company|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (38), Non-Patent Citations (6), Referenced by (8), Classifications (36)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This is a continuation of application Ser. No. 07/218,087 filed Jul. 12, 1988, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,906,070 which was a continuation of application Ser. No. 06/903,655 filed Sept. 5, 1986, now abandoned, which was a continuation-in-part of applications Ser. No. 06/799,869 filed Nov. 21, 1985, now abandoned, and Ser. No. 06/819,118 filed Jan. 15, 1986, now abandoned.
The present invention relates to a thin, flexible film made of a transparent material having a structured surface on one side and a smooth surface opposite the structured surface on the other side, one aspect of which is that the combination of surfaces may totally internally reflect light.
It is well known, to those skilled in the art, to form thin, flexible films structured on one side to deflect light, as illustrated in U.S. Pat. No. 2,248,638. In addition, mirrors have been used to reflect light and the making of mirrors is also well known to those skilled in the art as described in, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 2,723,919. However, there are limitations associated with the use of mirrors. Commercially available mirrors, even when new, have limited reflectivities that normally range from about 75% to about 95%, and, when, with the passing of time, the reflective coating becomes tarnished, the efficiency decreases.
The principle of total internal reflection has been recognized by optical engineers, as an alternative to mirrors, for many decades for reflectors and luminairs, as illustrated in U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,175,067 and 4,260,220. Its application can be found in various optical instruments, for example, the porro prisms in certain binoculars, the amici roof prisms used in certain types of periscopes, and the roof prisms used in certain types of single lens reflex cameras. However, such devices are massive and bulky.
The present invention affords an improved thin, flexible film made of a transparent material having a structured surface on one side which will achieve total internal reflection so that light, incident within certain angular ranges, is totally internally reflected. In addition, since the improved film requires no coating, it is capable of maintaining its efficiency over long periods of time. Finally, because of the film's flexibility, it can be formed into a variety of shapes and utilized in several ways.
The present invention provides a novel thin, flexible film made of a suitable transparent material, which has a structured surface on one side and a smooth surface opposite the structured surface on the other side. The structured surface consists of a linear array of miniature substantially right angled isosceles prisms arranged side-by-side to form a plurality of peaks and grooves. When the film is in a planar position, the perpendicular sides of each prism make an angle of approximately 45░ with the smooth surface opposite the structured surface. In addition, when the film is curled or arched, the smooth surface lies in a smooth continuous arcuate curve and incident light striking the concave side of the film, within certain angular ranges, is totally internally reflected.
The ability to maintain reflectivity when the smooth surface lies in an arcuate curve results in the film being able to be utilized in a variety of ways. For example, the flexibility of the film allows it to be used as a concentrator of solar energy when applied onto a trough.
A particular advantage of the film's flexibility is that it can be formed into a conduit or optical tunnel having a variety of cross-sectional shapes with the linear array of right angled isosceles prisms disposed parallel, orthogonally, or at any angle to the axis of the conduit. However, light will only be totally internally reflected and transported along the conduit if it is properly directed into the conduit. Further, the performance of the conduit can be manipulated so that the conduit acts as an illuminator by permitting a controlled amount of light leakage.
The present invention will be more fully described with reference to the accompanying drawings wherein like reference numerals identify corresponding components, and:
The structured surface 12 includes a linear array of miniature substantially right angled isosceles prisms 16 arranged side-by-side in parallel relationship to form a plurality of peaks 17 and grooves 18 running the length of the film 10, as illustrated in
The particular material used for the film 10 may vary, but it is intended that the material be normally flexible, and yet may not have sufficient strength to be self supporting in particular applications. The flexibility of the film 10 can best be defined as the ability to be curled so that the smooth surface 14 is a smooth continuous arcuate curve having no discernable discontinuities, such as kinks, fractures, segments, or the like. It is, however, essential that the material be transparent, and preferably homogeneous and isotropic. Useful polymeric materials for this purpose are commercially available, for example, acrylics and polycarbonates having nominal indices of refraction of 1.493 and 1.586, respectively. Other useful polymers are polypropylene, polyurethane, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and the like. The particular polymeric material selected is not significant to the invention hereof, so long as it provides the described function. Normally, the manufacturers of this product will select the best commercially available polymeric material based upon price, application and manufacturing process. However, polycarbonates are of particular interest because of their high indices of refraction and physical properties.
There are several ways to continuously mass produce the film of the present invention which are well known to those skilled in the art, for example as illustrated in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,689,346, 4,244,683, 4,576,850 and U.K. Patent Application No. GB2,127,344A, the disclosures of which are hereby incorporated by reference. In addition, previous methods for mass producing rigid sheets have also included compression molding, casting or calendering. The particular manufacturing process is not essential to the present invention, and is a matter of choice based upon economics and availability.
The thickness of the film is essential to the present invention because the performance and applicability of the film are dependent upon its flexibility so that the film 10 may be curled into a variety of shapes, such as tubular or cylindrical. An approximation for the minimum cylindrical diameter D to which a particular film having a thickness T, as measured from the smooth surface 14 to the valley of the grooves 18, may be curled is determined by the equation: D−TĚC, where C is a constant associated with the modulus of elasticity of the particular material. When the prisms 16 are micro in size, at least 40 per inch, and the film 10 has a particular thickness T, it may be curled such that the smooth surface 14 will lie in a smooth continuous arcuate curve while maintaining total internal reflection. It has been determined that an acrylic film having prisms micro in size has a constant C of about 200 associated therewith. For example, a 0.015 inch thick acrylic film having about 70 prisms per inch will exhibit sufficient flexibility to be capable of being easily curled into a cylinder having a minimum diameter of approximately 3 inches, while maintaining a smooth continuous arcuate surface without breaking. In addition, such a film will be rigid and self-supporting enough to easily maintain its shape when curled into a cylinder having a diameter of approximately 18 inches. This ability to maintain reflectivity results in the film being able to be utilized in a variety of ways, and eliminates the prior requirement that the optically active surface be rigidly maintained in planar configuration as taught by U.S. Pat. No. 4,260,220.
As illustrated in
Several of the various applications and uses of the film 10 of the present invention will now be described. For example, the film 10 may be attached to a parabolic trough 30 made of a hard rigid material which supports the film 10 to form a concentrator of solar energy, as illustrated in FIG. 6. Thus, solar energy S incident upon the smooth surface 14 is totally internally reflected and emerges focused on the linear target 32.
The most promising and revolutionary use of the film 10 is its ability to be formed into a tubular light conduit 40, whereby the smooth surface 14 lies in a smooth continuous arcuate curve, as illustrated in FIG. 7. Further, as illustrated in
The performance of the conduit 40 may be manipulated by adding diffusing particles, or by incorporating windows or imperfections, such as non-optically smooth prism sides and/or non-optically sharp corners or peaks, so that the light conduit 40 acts as an illuminator by permitting controlled light leakage. To permit controlled light leakage, the peaks 17, which are normally razor sharp for light transportation, may be blunted or rounded as illustrated in FIG. 8. The amount of light leakage per reflection is of the order r/ρ, where r is the approximate radius of the round peak 17′ of the prisms 16′ and ρ is the groove period. Thus, by varying the radius r of the peaks 17′, light leakage can be controlled. It is preferred that this be accomplished without any post-production or conversion operation, which for example may require additional or specialized dies or tooling, or by varying parameters in the manufacturing process. This has proved both effective and economical by varying the following parameters to control replication and the rounding of the peaks: (1) die temperature; (2) die pressure; (3) line speed; (4) tooling temperature; (5) cooling rate; (6) polymer dopants, etc. If the manufacturing process is other than extrusion, other parameters may apply.
While a preferred embodiment of the present invention has been described so as to enable one skilled in the art to practice the techniques of the present invention, the preceding description is intended to be exemplary and should not be used to limit the scope of the invention. The scope of the invention should be determined only by reference to the following claims.
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|1||"Polycarbonate Resin Handbook" edited by Seiichi Honma, published by Nikkkan Kogyo Shinbunsha on Aug. 28, 1992, pp. 121-125.|
|2||Agreement dated Aug. 20, 1984 between Minnesota Mining andManufacturing Company ("3M") and TIR Systems Limited ("the Agreement").|
|3||Fumio Ide & Hiroshi Terada, "Kobunshi Shinsozai One Point-2, 'Optical Fiber & Optical Materials'" edited by Japan Polymer Society, published by Kyoritsu Shuppan K.K. on Jun. 15, 1987, pp. 10-14.|
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|6||Memo dated Oct. 4, 1984 from S. Cobb toJ.F. Abere.|
|Citing Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US8281782 *||Aug 3, 2010||Oct 9, 2012||Daniel Simon||Method and apparatus for arranging a solar cell and reflector|
|US8479724||Mar 16, 2011||Jul 9, 2013||The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The Navy||Passive cooling system for lightweight solar collector assembly and array|
|US8522772||Feb 16, 2011||Sep 3, 2013||The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The Navy||Tracking system for lightweight solar collector assembly and array|
|US8657454||Dec 28, 2011||Feb 25, 2014||The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The Navy||Vacuum formed reflector for solar energy|
|US8794809||Apr 1, 2009||Aug 5, 2014||3M Innovative Properties Company||Light injection coupler for coupling light guides|
|US9175877||Feb 13, 2012||Nov 3, 2015||The United States Of America, As Represented By The Secretary Of The Navy||Two-dimensional Fresnel solar energy concentration system|
|US20100294365 *||Aug 3, 2010||Nov 25, 2010||Daniel Simon||Method and Apparatus for Arranging a Solar Cell and Reflector|
|EP2568212A1||Apr 1, 2009||Mar 13, 2013||3M Innovative Properties Company||Lighting system and light injection coupler therefor|
|U.S. Classification||359/831, 359/546, 359/834, 359/528, 428/327|
|International Classification||B32B5/16, G02B6/38, F21V8/00, G02B6/04, G02B6/24, G02B5/04, F24J2/06, F24J2/10, G02B6/10, F21V5/00, G02B5/136, G02B5/12, G02B6/032|
|Cooperative Classification||F21V5/002, F21V2200/40, G02B6/032, G02B5/12, F24J2/062, F24J2/1047, Y10T428/254, G02B6/24, G02B6/10, Y02E10/40, G02B6/0096, G02B6/3807|
|European Classification||G02B5/12, F24J2/10B, G02B6/00L8, G02B6/10, F24J2/06D, G02B6/032|