If you like the way the anti-reflective (AR) coating on your eyeglasses reduces glare, you can thank Mothra – or a real-life moth – for that.
That’s because moths’ eyes are covered with a special film that eliminates reflections. This is necessary because of their well-known attraction to flames.
If moths’ eyes reflected light, it would alert predators to their presence. But moths’ eyes are coated with a super-thin film structured in a hexagonal pattern of bumps that are so tiny they are smaller than the wavelength of visible light. These bumps reduce reflections from flames or other light sources by matching the wavelength of visible light, which blocks the light’s reflections.
AR coatings on eyeglasses take their cue from the eyes of moths. They work in a similar way, using a super-thin layer of metal oxide to reduce reflection by matching a reflected wave of light with an equal and opposite “incident wave” (roughly oversimplified, an interfering wave), which causes the two waves to cancel each other out.
You don’t have to be a scientist, or even an accomplished graph reader, to see that the red wave of the reflection is equally matched by the black incident wave of the AR coating, which blocks the reflection on the lens as effectively as Jerry Kramer blocked Jethro Pugh in the Ice Bowl. (What? Ask a football fan or Google it.)
AR coatings are highly recommended for eyeglasses. They’re especially useful with high-index prescription lenses, because high-index lenses are thinner, lighter, and flatter than standard- and mid-index lenses, and therefore tend to reflect more light than lower index lenses do.
But all lenses, even non-prescription lenses, benefit from AR coating, especially sunglasses.
However, one of the most important uses of AR coating will not involve sunglasses, unless you’re this guy.
For most people, who, unlike Corey Hart, don’t wear their sunglasses at night, AR coating is a must-have for driving glasses, prescription or non-prescription sunglasses, or clear prescription lenses. AR coating is great for reducing glare from streetlights, stoplights, taillights, and oncoming headlights. It’s especially good at decreasing the “halo” effect.
Wait, not that halo effect – that one should only be increased! Multiplied, even, at every possible opportunity. Here is the halo effect you want to reduce:
AR coating performs a great cosmetic function, too. It greatly decreases the reflection on eyeglasses’ lenses from external indoor and outdoor light sources. With AR coating, people looking at you while you’re wearing glasses will see your eyes rather than what’s reflected on the lenses. This is an excellent feature to have, unless you’re acting in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.
If you haven’t seen that movie, check it out. It’s one of Hitchcock’s best.
In a minute we’re going to examine the three main types of AR coatings available for eyeglasses’ lenses: standard, hydrophobic, and oleophobic. They all work the same way, by blocking reflection and reducing glare with one or more layers of metal oxide that (remember the moth) allow more light to pass through the lens.
But first, let’s dispose of the most common misconception about AR coatings: that they tint the lens. This is not true. AR coatings are clear and colorless and invisible on the lens.
But there is a color-based way to tell if your lenses have AR coating. Sometimes people will think that, because reflections on the lenses are not entirely eliminated, their glasses don’t have AR coating, even though they ordered it.
To see if your eyeglasses have AR coating, hold the glasses parallel to the ground, with the temple arms (the stems that go behind your ear) up or down. Angle the glasses so you can see reflections on the lenses. If the reflections look green or purple, your lenses have AR coating.
Here’s why: The reflections will look green or purple, or both green and purple, because AR coating blocks waves that are in the green-to-purple wavelength of the spectrum of visible light. That’s why these colors are reflected on the lenses. If that’s not confusing enough, here’s a chart that will really have you scratching your head, unless you’re an optics geek:
Now that your brain has recovered (we hope), let’s look at those three main types of AR coatings: standard, hydrophobic, and oleophobic. Standard AR coating, which is $4.95 at Zenni Optical, and which can cost north of $100 at other optical retailers, does a great job of reducing reflections on eyeglasses lenses.
But there’s a big difference between standard AR coating and hydrophobic, which is $8.95 at Zenni, and oleophobic, which is $14.95 at Zenni. These AR coatings can cost as much as $200 at other optical retailers.
The hydrophobic AR coating is called that because although it blocks reflections the same way the standard AR coating does, it’s also water (hydro) resistant (phobic). It puts a slick surface on the lens that resists the buildup of water-based moisture, which is important to have when you’re watching a tearjerker like The Best Man Holiday for the 87th time.
The hydrophobic and oleophobic AR coatings make your eyeglasses’ lenses easier to clean than lenses with the standard AR coating. You can do this experiment yourself. If you have a pair of glasses with standard AR coating and a pair with hydrophobic or oleophobic AR coating, clean each pair with the cloth that comes with your Zenni glasses. It’s much easier to clean the hydrophobic or oleophobic pair than the standard pair, right? The cloth slides right across the surface of the hydrophobic- or oleophobic-coated lenses, while on the pair with the standard AR coating there’s a little drag on the lens.
The oleophobic AR coating is called that because in addition to resisting water the way the hydrophobic AR coating does, it also resists oil and grease (that’s the “oleo” part, as in “oleomargarine,” which is what margarine used to be called).
The oleophobic AR coating has a slick surface on the lens that, like the hydrophobic AR coating, resists the buildup of water moisture on the lens and makes the lenses easier to clean than lenses with the standard AR coating.
But it also protects against smudging from fingerprints as well as facial oils. This is useful when you don’t want to use your superpowers to clean your glasses, which would give away your secret identity.
Zenni also offers special mirror-finish oleophobic AR coatings for sunglasses. These come in gold, silver, and blue, and each is $19.95. The back of the lens has the AR coating, and the front of the lens has the reflective mirror-finish coating. The gold mirror finish looks great with frames that are gold, red, brown, or tortoiseshell, such as frame A10102114.
The silver mirror finish looks great with any frame color or style, especially A10102412.
The blue mirror finish looks great with silver, black, gray, blue, or gold frames, such as 521814, and is especially good at reflecting harmful blue light.
Or check out this beauty in the blue mirror finish. The frame (A10161222) looks great, too.
Speaking of reflecting harmful blue light, soon we’ll be launching our newest AR coating, which is specially designed to block blue light. Keep checking the Zenni Blog – and website – for details!