Ocular biotribology and contact lens lubrication mechanisms

  • G.M. Ross

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The work described in this thesis is concerned with mechanisms of contact lens lubrication. There are three major driving forces in contact lens design and development; cost, convenience, and comfort. Lubrication, as reflected in the coefficient of friction, is becoming recognised as one of the major factors affecting the comfort of the current generation of contact lenses, which have benefited from several decades of design and production improvements. This work started with the study of the in-eye release of soluble macromolecules from a contact lens matrix. The vehicle for the study was the family of CIBA Vision Focus® DAILIES® daily disposable contact lenses which is based on polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). The effective release of linear soluble PVA from DAILIES on the surface of the lens was shown to be beneficial in terms of patient comfort. There was a need to develop a novel characterisation technique in order to study these effects at surfaces; this led to the study of a novel tribological technique, which allowed the friction coefficients of different types of contact lenses to be measured reproducibly at genuinely low values. The tribometer needed the ability to accommodate the following features: (a) an approximation to eye lid load, (b) both new and ex-vivo lenses, (c) variations in substrate, (d) different ocular lubricants (including tears). The tribometer and measuring technique developed in this way was used to examine the surface friction and lubrication mechanisms of two different types of contact lenses: daily disposables and silicone hydrogels. The results from the tribometer in terms of both mean friction coefficient and the friction profiles obtained allowed various mechanisms used for surface enhancement now seen in the daily disposable contact lens sector to be evaluated. The three major methods used are: release of soluble macromolecules (such as PVA) from the lens matrix, irreversible surface binding of a macromolecule (such as polyvinyl pyrrolidone) by charge transfer and the simple polymer adsorption (e.g. Pluoronic) at the lens surface. The tribological technique was also used to examine the trends in the development of silicone hydrogel contact lenses. The focus of the principles in the design of silicone hydrogels has now shifted from oxygen permeability, to the improvement of surface properties. Presently, tribological studies reflect the most effective in vitro method of surface evaluation in relation to the in-eye comfort.
Date of AwardNov 2009
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBrian Tighe (Supervisor)


  • contact lenses
  • hydrogels
  • tribology
  • lubrication
  • surface modification

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