Bolton School to present research at the Royal Society

A summer science exhibition at the Royal Society will include Bolton pupils demonstrating their findings on the sustainable disposal of contact lenses

A team from a Greater Manchester boys’ school is set to give a presentation at a summer science exhibition hosted by the Royal Society.

Bolton School pupils will travel to London to present their research on the persistence of discarded contact lenses in the environment.

The 6-7 July event offers a window on research from across the UK, and this year includes a Young Researcher Zone where students from schools and colleges demonstrate work undertaken with STEM partners in the Royal Society Partnership Project Programme.

The boys’ initial work focused on soil tests, which found that contact lens materials were not greatly affected by normal soil conditions, with the hydrogels within them notably regenerative. When the effects of other substances were tested – including boiling water and various enzymes – the hydrogels remained indestructible.

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Although the pandemic significantly delayed the project, it also helped with the genesis of a potential answer to the problem: an increased familiarity with alcohol hand gels sparked an idea for developing a home gel system that would weaken the contact lens structure, potentially reducing the time the materials persist in the environment once disposed of.

Bolton School pupils have been testing a variety of gel combinations to find one suitable for home use.

The project followed a chance conversation on Twitter between Dr Kristy Turner, who works in both the chemistry department of the school and at the University of Manchester, and Professor Phil Morgan, a professor of optometry at the university.

Professor Morgan, whose son is an old boy of Bolton School, is a recognised expert in the clinical performance of contact lenses and has published over 200 papers on the subject.

A successful 2019 application for a partnership grant to study the environmental impact of disposable contact lenses gave the boys’ research the green light.

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