Synthesis and characterisation of hydrogel polymers for medical applications
A fundamental if poorly understood problem that hydrogels display is the tendency of these contact lens materials to dehydrate, causing certain complications of the corneal epithelium. However, recent studies have indicated that the evaporation rate of water from different hydrogel lenses is the same and the severity of conditions such as corneal staining is controlled by the states of water in the material. A study was therefore undertaken which concluded that increased corneal desiccating staining occurred as the proportion of water existing in the bound state decreased. The possibility of using dehydrated hydrogels as packaging materials with desiccating properties has also been investigated. As hydrogels have a high affinity for water they have adequate ability to function as a moisture scavenger in an enclosed atmosphere. It was concluded that this ability is maximised by a high total water content and an increase in the proportion of this water existing in the bound state for the material when it is fully hydrated. N-vinyl pyrrolidone has a low reactivity in vinyl polymerisation reactions which results in polymers with local domains of the same chemical type which can lead to deposition. As contact lenses comprising of this monomer are susceptible to deposition, a monomer with a higher reactivity in vinyl polymerisations is acryloylmorpholine and its incorporation in favour of NVP is encouraged. Unfortunately a large proportion of high EWC hydrogels are mechanically weak and attempts to increase this property by increasing hydrophobicity or cross-linking results in a decrease in EWC. Monomers with the potential to carry a positive charge were incorporated into a high EWC, AMO-HEMA copolymer and the physical properties were investigated. Although EWC increased, mechanical properties decreased only slightly. Therefore simultaneous incorporation of a positively charged monomer and a negatively charged monomer was investigated. The resulting copolymers showed increased water content and increased initial modulus. A technique for measuring the coefficient of friction of contact lenses during lubrication has been developed.