Nanoindentation of soft contact lens materials

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Alastair Selby


The launch of silicone hydrogel contact lenses has led to a rise in the incidence of mechanically-related clinical complications, which is thought to be due to the increased stiffness of these materials compared to conventional hydrogel lens materials. The mechanical characteristics of hydrogel contact lenses have traditionally been investigated using tensile testing which investigated the bulk material characteristics. This thesis presents a study intended to establish a repeatable method for local mechanical measurement of hydrogel contact lenses using nanoindentation. Hydrogel materials in phosphate buffered saline were indented using a Hysitron Triboindenter mounted on a Veeco Explorer AFM using Triboscope software (version 3.5a) with a specially constructed wet cell. A model hydrogel (poly(HEMA-MMA)) was used to validate the methodology and investigate a the effect of controlled change in specimen thickness. A range of commercially available hydrogel contact lenses were then characterised (including conventional and silicone hydrogel lenses) using the same method. Two different analytical techniques were employed to determine the mechanical properties data; elastic analysis and a time-dependent viscoelastic analytical technique.A strong influence of specimen thickness on apparent mechanical properties was seen with the elastic analysis and an empirical relationship was derived to correct for this which was found to be appropriate for all contact lens specimens studied and reported in the thesis. The viscoelastic analysis results were more complex and exhibited a less clear influence of specimen thickness. However, as this is a very simple approximation as contact lenses are suspected to be poroelastic rather than viscoelastic this work could not be fully resolved in the scope of this thesis. For all contact lenses analysed, nanoindentation produced data similar to that found with conventional tensile testing, however, there was evidence for a slight dependence of elastic properties across the lens that does not correlate with sample thickness. This thesis shows the development of a way of accounting for the variation of thickness of a range of contact lenses, and demonstrated that traditional analysis is accurate enough to determine local differences in modulus across contact lenses. The viscoelastic analysis may be more appropriate for hydrogels, however, it produced irregularities that will require further work to fully resolve.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2013