It has always been a problem, but once masks were mandated to help combat the spread of COVID-19, it became impossible to ignore. Ask anyone who wears glasses.
The struggle with lens fog is real, but Vernon Optometry was quick to explore new technology from Europe and bring it to Canadian soil first.
Enter Clear AF: an anti-fog lens coating made in-house at Vernon Optometry’s carbon-neutral lab.
“None of the big labs have it yet,” said Dr. Meghan Ashton. “We’re lucky because we’re small enough — we’re nimble. We can adopt new technology quickly.”
“We saw it, tested it and had it implemented in one month from beginning to end.”
Dr. Tanner Udenberg demoed a pair that had one lens coated in Clear AF and the other in a regular anti-glare. With just a few breaths, the lens without the special coating fogged up and lingered for several moments while the other remained crystal clear.
The special coating, which is added in the anti-reflective chamber, starts as a square chip that is hit with an electron beam to vaporize the material which creates a uniform, thin layer on the lens.
“There are all these different crucibles with different materials and the coating is built in layers,” Dr. Udenberg said. “It vaporizes that material which spins at a really high speed and that coating goes on the lens and the new material goes on. The anti-fog material goes on in one of those steps.”
“The proof is in the pudding,” he said, admitting he was skeptical at first.
“Nothing else really does the trick,” he said, noting the team had tried sprays, gels and anything else to “fight the fog.”
Since the mask mandate was ordered in November, 95 per cent of Vernon Optometry customers complained of lens fog, Dr. Udenberg said.
“This is a game-changer. This is the recipe they’re starting to use in the States for safety glasses… We’re in a unique position because we have dip coaters and all the equipment to make it.”
Dr. Ashton pointed to the clinic’s unique circumstances as a reason behind their ability to adapt.
“We’re an anomaly. I still don’t know of any other optometry office in North America that does what we do,” she said. “I think it’s partly because you have two younger doctors and my husband (Tyler Underwood) is an electrical engineer. Without that combo, I don’t think we would have gotten this far with this at all.”
The Clear AF coating, too, aligns with the optometrists’ values as it is “hippie approved,” Dr. Udenberg said.
“There is one other coating on the market and it is known to be quite harmful. This one is not. This one is safe,” Dr. Ashton said, noting it passes California’s strict regulations. “Which is a lot.”
Vernon Optometry’s carbon-neutral facility boasts 100 solar panels on the roof and geothermal technology recycles heat from the lens-manufacturing process.