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Berkeley chemist wins national award for research on contact lenses, other products

Clayton J. Radke of Berkeley, Calif., will be honored March 25 by the world's largest scientific society for his diverse and innovative research at interfaces -- surfaces such as those between contact lens and the eye. He will receive the 2003 Award in Colloid Chemistry from the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in New Orleans.

Interfaces are important "because that's where things happen," said Radke, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. "And I study them because I love it. I'm a wide-ranging person -- I really enjoy bringing together a variety of experimental and theoretical tools to solve problems."

Over his career Radke has worked on improving ways to extract oil from rocky deposits, to clean organic pollutants from wastewater and to coat surfaces. But his recent efforts to improve soft contact lenses illustrate both the challenge and the thoroughness of his approach.

"Contact lenses have to be designed to be safe and comfortable to wear and to mold to the eye, transport water, sweep away bacteria and correct vision -- all this in a product about thin as a human hair. It's one big interface between air, lens, tears and the eye itself," he said.

"We use various optical devices to measure what happens between tears and lens, to see how molecules of material are adsorbed on the surface, how much and their characteristics," he explained. "And using modern computation we solve how forces get transmitted to the lens by the eyelid and how blinking squeezes the liquid from behind the lens."

But Radke's work doesn't stop in the laboratory. He and his research team also go to optometrists' offices to measure how contact lens move, squeeze and sweep on the eyes of actual patients. The overarching goal is to assemble and understand the most complete picture possible so researchers can develop ever safer, extended-wear lenses.

Radke received his undergraduate degree from
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Contact: Allison Byrum
a_byrum@acs.org
202-872-4400
American Chemical Society
4-Mar-2003


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