What Is a Mirror Mount?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A mirror mount is a piece of equipment that holds a mirror in position as part of a system that uses them to function, like some lasers and telescopes. In the case of scientific instrumentation, the device has to be very finely tuned because it may need to be capable of precision positioning. For systems like those found on cars, mirror mounts can be less precise. Drivers are not in danger if a mirror drifts off by a small fraction after adjustment, while such drift can ruin an experiment.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

The design can include a number of different components to hold a mirror in place and allow for adjustments. Some are designed to allow technicians to change mirrors for different activities, while others have a fixed piece that is not intended to be interchangeable. The mirror mount swivels on ball bearings and similar components to adjust the exact position of the mirror for various applications. The mount may include insulation and a protective housing to limit vibration, temperature extremes, and other problems that could compromise the performance of the mirror or the equipment.

In scientific instruments, the mirror mount often moves with the use of adjustment screws, although some may have an electronically controlled positioning system. An operator can position the mirror precisely where it is needed, and it should lock in place. The mirror will not change position unless the operator moves it. Fixed positioning is important for activities like focusing lasers, especially when multiple mirrors are involved in the system.

One common design for scientific instruments is the kinematic mirror mount. Such devices use a carefully positioned set of ball bearings to control the position of a mirror and hold it in place once a technician has set it. Some have electronic memory settings, to allow operators to program in different commonly used positions. This is common on equipment like telescopes, where scientists may want to be able to quickly position a telescope correctly to make observations.

Like other moving parts, a mirror mount needs proper maintenance to work well. The devices may require periodic oiling to keep the parts lubricated and to create a barrier for rust resistance. Systems kept in harsh environments may need special care to limit damage caused by extreme heat and cold. The mirrors also require proper maintenance, and it is important to use a mirror appropriate to a given application, as the wrong product can result in faulty data.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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