*NOTE: Certain coatings have inherently poor adhesion, especially if manufactured without effective substrate preparation, particularly gold and silver coatings and replicated aluminum gratings. That being said, we and our customers have successfully protected and cleaned lots of gold and silver mirrors and gratings including those on the WM Keck Telescope and the Gemini North Silver. The Laser Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) uses our red polymer formula exclusively to clean their gold optics as documented here. While we routinely clean diffraction gratings, the old adage about gratings still holds - don’t touch them unless you have to! And remember: Always test on an inconspicuous or non-critical area first.
What is First Contact Polymer?
First Contact Polymer is a proprietary blend of polymers in a blend of solvents specifically designed to remove all contaminates from optical surfaces down to the molecular level as well as protect optical surfaces during shipping and storage. It is carefully designed not to thermally shock nor remove coatings. The polymer is applied to the surface, allowed to dry, and then peeled off leaving the surface atomically clean.
Can I get a sample of First Contact Polymer?
First Contact Polymer comes with a money back guarantee. If you are not completely satisfied with the results, you may return the product for a refund.
How can I order First Contact Polymer?
You can order First Contact Polymer directly from our Web Store, or you may contact one of our International Distributors.
How much First Contact Polymer do I need?
Typically 1 ml of the non-spray formula polymer will cover around 26 square centimeters (approximately 4in2). This quantity will vary greatly depending on the optic texture, shape, and dirtiness. If the optic is really dirty plan on almost double this amount to dissolve and encapsulate the contaminates. The spray formula, since it is diluted for spraying, covers around 60% the surface area as an equivalent amount of non-spray formula and will vary depending on sprayer, size of optics, quantity covered at once, and experience of the user. For general applications 1ml of spray polymer will cover ~15.6 square centimeters (2.4in2) Go to this page to view our Non-Spray Polymer Coverage Chart and this page to view our Spray Polymer Coverage Chart.
How do I use First Contact Polymer?
Brush/pour on First Contact Polymer instructions are available on this page, or spray directions can be found on this page. Also, we have many videos on our YouTube Channel showing application and removal techniques from many different substrates.
What is the shelf life of First Contact Polymer?
Colorless First Contact Polymer has a shelf life of one year from the manufacturing date. Red First Contact Polymer has a shelf life of 9 months. If stored below room temperature out of direct light, both formulas can last much longer. When exposed to light for long periods of time Red First Contact Polymer can begin to lose its color and eventually turn colorless, however this in no way affects the polymer’s ability to protect and clean.
How should I store First Contact Polymer?
First Contact Polymer should be stored at or below room temperature and out of direct sunlight. When exposed to light for long periods of time, the Red First Contact Polymer can begin to lose its color and eventually turn colorless. This in no way affects the polymer’s ability to protect and clean.
Is First Contact Polymer Safe?
First Contact Polymer is as safe as ethanol and nail polish remover (this means very safe). The liquid First Contact Polymer has a variety of flammable solvents, such as ethanol, and should be used in a ventilated area. The polymer blend is inert and once dry can be disposed of with standard waste. While the solvents are flammable, they are considered harmless and usually ship as a standard package.
Can I use First Contact Polymer at High/Low Temperatures?
If the polymer and mirror are close to the same temperature, there will be no thermal shock to any coatings. It is organic solvent based, like alcohol and acetone, and dries almost as fast at 0°C as it does at room temperature. First Contact Polymer has been tested at -10°C and works wonderfully. The clear polymer yellows at 180°C and has been flashed to 450°C during soldering. It melts at 200°C and adhesion usually increases. Increased adhesion is not a problem, however, because the polymer film can be removed by coating the dried polymer film with the liquid First Contact Polymer. The dried film will dissolve and then lift as usual. Some customers will apply a thin layer to protect while heating and then apply more liquid polymer to remove the protective layer after heating.
Will First Contact Polymer work on my special mirror/optics?
With the exception of some plastics, First Contact Polymer works on all materials and coatings that don’t dissolve in the solvents. It has been tested on most materials and coatings (even exotic coatings) without complication. Unprotected Silver has extremely low adhesion and caution is advised when using First Contact Polymer on this surface.
What are the differences between the red and the colorless First Contact Polymer?
Red First Contact Polymer is a different polymer formula than colorless First Contact Polymer. The Red Formula dries 1/3 faster than the colorless version and exhibits less adhesion on surfaces such as gold and titanium. The red color is incorporated directly to the polymer backbone so there is still zero residue left on the surface. Although originally designed for microscope slides, the Red First Contact Polymer has replaced the colorless version as the recommended protecting and cleaning product for all applications.
I have a TELESCOPE. Which First Contact Polymer Kit should I buy?
Go to THIS PAGE to determine the kit that best fits your needs.
What protection does First Contact™ provide during handling, storage and shipping?
When properly applied, First Contact™ protects against scratching, abrasion, dirt, and water damage. First Contact™ also protects against corrosion caused by water vapor, oxygen, and sulfur. First Contact™ dries to a strong solid film which adheres to the surface tightly. The film covers the surface intimately, providing an effective barrier to particulates. Unlike other protective films in use today, the tough, resilient First Contact™ film prevents scratches due to particulate matter or abrasion from surfaces rubbing against the protected surface. First Contact™ IS the protection, it does not need to be protected with expensive packaging designed to suspend the optic to prevent any contact during transit. The polymer can be left on substrates for very long periods of time, many months or years.tonic Cleaning Technologies believes you can! First Contact polymer film is tough, resilient, and protects against many physical and chemical attacks. It provides a positive physical barrier between the optic and the world. This physical barrier allows the use of less sophisticated, less expensive packaging options. By shipping with First Contact™ protection on your optics, package cost and time spent packaging should drop significantly.
Can I lower packaging and shipping costs by using First Contact™?
Photonic Cleaning Technologies believes you can! First Contact polymer film is tough, resilient, and protects against many physical and chemical attacks. It provides a positive physical barrier between the optic and the world. This physical barrier allows the use of less sophisticated, less expensive packaging options. By shipping with First Contact™ protection on your optics, package cost and time spent packaging should drop significantly.
Does First Contact™ protect against water and water vapor penetration?
Yes, our FC WR Water Resistant Formula polymer has been tested and shown to protect against water intrusion for up to 24 hours at both room temperature and elevated temperatures up to 25C in both static and agitated water baths. Our Red First Contact™ provides a barrier to water vapor but only for a limited time as moisture will permeate through and under the dry polymer film, and the red polymer will quickly swell and lift in water. Use FC WR Water Resistant Polymer for protection!
Does First Contact™ protect against oxygen?
Yes, First Contact™ provides effective protection from oxygen. The dry First Contact™ film is impervious to oxygen.
Can First Contact™ be used in a cleanroom, and if so at what level?
First Contact™ has been used for years in cleanrooms all over the world on a routine basis. We don't have a specific cleanroom rating but removing the items from the plastic kit box or cleaning it some should be no problem in a Class 100 or even Class 10 cleanroom. Specific cleanrooms we have visited that use First Contact include Caltech/LIGO, a few at NASA GSFC and JPL, as well as Fabs near Portland, Seattle, and Silicon Valley. The solvents that evaporate are pretty safe, like acetone and ethanol, and typically already used in cleanrooms.
Does First Contact™ protect against sulfur penetration?
Yes, First Contact™ is impervious to sulfur vapors and provides effective protection against sulfur.
If First Contact™ sticks after storage, how can I remove it safely?
First Contact™ polymer is inert so it is unlikely it will stick too tightly to the surface even after a lengthy storage period. However, if necessary, the polymer can be re-dissolved using fresh First Contact™ solution. When the fresh application dries, the polymer film will peel off quickly and easily.
How does First Contact™ work?
Years of research led to the development of this novel designer polymer/solvent system. It is a carefully tuned chemical system optimizing the desired properties of adhesion and drying to avoid thermal coating stress. First Contact™ cleans without rubbing or dragging because the user never touches anything but the First Contact™ solution and the First Contact™ film. Cleaning with First Contact™ cannot create scratched surfaces!
What will First Contact™ clean from the surface?
First Contact™ can clean any surface that is not soluble in strongly polar organic solvents such as acetone or ethanol,including all types of glass, metals, silica, Si, Ge, KRS-5, NaCl, KBr, and all polar inorganic crystals. It works on frosted glass, diffuse reflective and even many anodized surfaces! First Contact™ even cleans AR and reflective coatings, most commercial first surface mirrors (protected and unprotected), and some plastics, for example nylon and Delrin®, that don’t dissolve in polar organic solvents such as acetone. First Contact™ possesses a perfectly balanced adhesive force to hold the residues without holding onto the many expensive precision coatings in use on today’s optics.
Can First Contact™ clean metals?
Yes, First Contact™ cleans all metals. We have several different polymer formulas so please contact us for the best product for your application.
Can First Contact™ clean crystals and minerals?
Yes, First Contact™ cleans crystals and minerals as long as the material is not soluble in polar organic solvents. First Contact™ has been used to successfully clean laser rods and precious gems.
Can First Contact™ clean plastics?
Yes, most plastics can be cleaned with our First Contact™ Plastics Formula. Click the link to view details about the FCPL Formula.
Can First Contact™ clean camera lenses?
Camera lenses, lens housings, and mounts may be composed of or contain plastics. Caution must be exercised when using First Contact™ to clean camera lenses.
Professional and research equipment lenses are typically made with glass and high quality coatings. First Contact™ is safe to use with these lenses. Many professional grade lenses have metal housings and mounts which will not dissolve in the First Contact™ solvents; it is best not to coat all the way to these edges as the First Contact™ film will be more difficult to remove. Even so, exercise caution and do not coat all the way to the lens housing or lens mount if there is any chance these structures are made of or contain plastics. Optic retaining rings can be protected from the polymer using our Oring Procedures to control polymer flow. Orings are available on our webstore. Photonic Cleaning Technologies will not accept responsibility for damage to an optic or instrument due to dissolved plastic components.
Can First Contact™ clean camera CCD?
Yes First Contact™ does clean detector windows and unprotected CCD boards effectively and completely. We have done it many times. However, the user must proceed with caution and knowledge about the CCD he/she is going to clean.
CCD boards which are not covered by a detector window are very delicate and the user must understand issues regarding static charges and CCD’s if attempting to clean this type of CCD. If you are not familiar enough with CCD, it is possible to create static charges when removing the dried film, which can damage the CCD. (Our ESD-DF formula can be used to clean these CCDs) If you did not know this before reading it here, we do not recommend cleaning the CCD by yourself until you get some more instruction.
Some CCD mounts are made of plastic. As always when using First Contact™, the user must be careful not to brush the First Contact™ solution onto the plastic mount. First Contact™ solution may adhere to some plastics too tightly to peel off or could even dissolve the material. This is usually not a consideration for high quality laboratory equipment.
Can First Contact™ clean water soluble residues from precision optics?
In some cases First contact™ does remove water soluble contaminants. However First Contact™ solution is designed to remove organic contamination and small particles. It will not reliably remove water soluble residues by itself. But, many water soluble residues can be removed effectively in a two-step process. Step one is to our Water Spot Pretreatment to dissolve the water soluble residues. Step two is to apply First Contact™ solution to remove the aqueous solution, particulates and organic contaminants from the surface.
What does First Contact™ do in addition to clean surfaces?
First Contact™ can be used to protect precision surfaces from physical and chemical damage making it an excellent choice for storage, shipping, and manufacturing protection. The polymer can be left on substrates for very long periods of time, many months or years.
First Contact™ provides protection from chemical attack. First Contact™ is impermeable to some chemicals, and provides a level of protection against others.
What can First Contact™ NOT do?
First Contact™ cannot repair damaged surfaces nor can it clean all plastics.
First Contact™ will not repair scratches or restore corroded surfaces. First Contact™ can remove fingerprints as long as the residue is reasonably fresh and the oils and acids have not etched the optic surface.
First Contact™ neither repairs nor creates surface imperfections. When properly applied, nothing touches the optic surface except liquid First Contact™.
How is First Contact™ applied?
First Contact™ may be poured onto the surface and spread, sprayed on, or applied with a pipette; it may even be applied by simply dipping the optic into First Contact™ Polymer Solution. Application techniques may be found on the First Contact™ Instructions page.
How much First Contact™ will I need?
The First Contact™ solution must be applied generously enough to create a thick, dry film on the surface that will peel off without tearing. The dry film is a tough, flexible plastic-like material.
For a smooth surface – like a mirror – plan on using about 1 ml First Contact™ solution for four (4) square inches of surface area treated. (1 ml per four square inches is the same as 1 ml per 26 square cm.) Rough surfaces and grooved surfaces need more solution than this.
How long does it take for First Contact™ to dry to a strong, flexible film?
The short answer is that our Red First Contact™ solution takes about 15 to 20 minutes to dry on a typical mirror or lens. Rough surfaces like diffraction gratings need at least 2 to 3 times longer. Some formulas take longer to dry due to their solvent blend.
The long answer is it depends on many factors including formula type, ambient temperature, amount applied per surface area, etc. The more First Contact™ solution applied, the longer the dry time; the cooler the room, the longer the dry time.
How is First Contact™ removed from the object?
When First Contact™ solution has dried thoroughly, the film will peel off quickly and easily using the special peel tabs provided in the regular and deluxe kits. Simply expose the sticky side of the peel tab, place it on the film, make sure the sticky tab and film are in intimate contact, wait about 15 seconds, and gently pull up. You must pull from an edge of the film and peel the dry polymer film back on itself to get the peel started. Consider the polymer like a piece of tape; you can not remove tape from the center, you must start removing tape from an edge, right? First Contact™ removal works under the same principle.
The First Contact™ film tore while removing, what should I do?
First Contact™ film is a very tough, flexible material. If the film tore while being removed, the coating is probably too thin. Stop peeling, apply more First Contact™, and allow it to dry. The old, torn film and the new application will form a thicker film coating that should be easily removed without tearing. Leave the peel tab in place when applying additional solution and use it to remove the dried film.
The First Contact™ film is sticking to the surface. What is happening?
First Contact™ is a solution of polymer in solvents. The polymer forms a film as the solvents evaporate. Even though the film is present, the solvents may still be evaporating and the film is not as strong as it will be when it is dry.
If necessary, lay the film back down on the surface and apply more First Contact™ solution to re-dissolve any polymer adhering to the surface where the wet film was lifted. Allow the solution plenty of time to dry before attempting to remove the film a second time.
It's possible the polymer has slightly ran over the end of an optic and you are not beginning the peel at the very edge of the dry film. Think of the dry film as a piece of tape; you can not remove tape from the center, you must begin to peel it from an edge; First Contact Polymer behaves the same way. If using a sticky peel tab for removal try rolling the peel tab over the edge slightly, press and let the peel tab adhere to the dry film for about 15 seconds. Sometimes it's helpful to use a quick, snapping motion to begin the peel as demonstrated in this video on our YouTube channel.
What ventilation is needed when using First Contact™?
First Contact™ solution contains volatile solvents including acetone and ethanol. Adequate ventilation is necessary when using the product. Please see our SDS
Is First Contact™ solution flammable?
Yes, First Contact™ solution is flammable. Use only with adequate ventilation and protect from open flames or other ignition sources.
Is the dry First Contact™ polymer film flammable?
The dry First Contact™ polymer film is essentially inert and will not easily burn.
Can First Contact™ be used on larger surface areas?
Yes, First Contact™ can be used on any surface suitable for the solution composition.
Intermediate surfaces may be peeled using bumper sticker-size tabs (part number FCB) that Photonic Cleaning Technologies can supply on request. Very large surfaces may require special chemical resistant mesh (part number FCNet), available from Photonic Cleaning Technologies, be applied between a double application of First Contact™ solution. The mesh becomes part of the coating without ever touching the surface and provides a strong matrix to pull and remove the dry film.
Can First Contact™ be applied as a spray?
First Contact™ solution can be applied as a spray. Photonic Cleaning Technologies provides Spray First Contact which is ready-to-use from the bottle. All of our spray bottles are compatible with spray First Contact and can be purchased on the Accessories Page
Research and experimentation shows that HVLP spray technology is compatible with First Contact™ application. Standard First Contact™ can be sprayed with this technology. Contact us for more information.
Can First Contact™ clean glass and coated optics?
Yes, First Contact™ was developed with this purpose in mind. The developers were researchers trained to use precision optics in their research and knew there had to be a better way to clean than drag wipe methods. They worked for several years to attain a breakthrough technology for cleaning precision optics and have spent several additional years proving the technology works as well as improving the product.
First Contact™ is a single component cleaning solution. Just apply First Contact™ from the bottle; there is no need to ever touch the optic surface directly with a brush, mesh, or tissue. First Contact™ penetrates every surface feature down to 50 nm and smaller. When the dried film is removed, the surface is optically clean and the optic coatings remain intact.
First Contact™ is effective on rough surfaces like diffraction gratings and frosted glass, too!
Can First Contact™ clean telescope optics?
Yes, First Contact™ cleans all telescope optics, from mirrors to diffraction gratings to camera lenses, quickly and effectively.
First Contact™ restores primary surface mirrors to virtually new condition and can be applied to the surface while the mirror is mounted in the telescope. Regular use of First
Contact™ can extend mirror life and reduce or eliminate the need to recoat the primary surface. Read the report from our visit to the Gran Telescopio Canarias to see the level of reflectivity restored to a dirty mirror segment!
Will First Contact™ remove blocking wax from optics?
Yes, First Contact™ removes blocking wax like that on x-ray optics much faster, more effectively, and more completely than other methods.
First, one should melt or scrape off most of the wax as it is a simple process and saves on the quantity of polymer required.
Also, some technicians will dip the item in an acetone bath to dissolve the majority of the wax, then use First Contact to remove any residual wax. In this way, the acetone bath does not need to be ultra pure, nor require multiple baths to get progressively cleaner solvent as the wax is removed during preceding baths. The bath solvent can contain some dissolved wax that will remain on the item when removed from the bath, then First Contact will remove the residue. This process saves considerable time and reduces hazardous waste.
Will First Contact™ remove residue from other attempts to clean optics?
Yes, First Contact™ is proven to remove residues remaining when other products were used to ‘clean’ or protect the optic. Results may vary depending on the residue as surface staining or etching may have occurred.
It may also be necessary to use our 2 step cleaning process using Water Spot Pretreatment to loosen the residue and allow First Contact™ to encapsulate and remove the residue.
Only First Contact™ protects, cleans, and leaves no residue!
Why do bubbles form in the dry polymer film? And will bubbles affect surface cleanliness?
Bubbles do not always appear in the dry polymer film. Bubbles seem to form for several reasons:
1. Small particles (dust perhaps?) or microstructures might initiate nucleation
2. Bubbles can form if the substrate is a little to warm, or the polymer is colder than the substrate
3. The polymer's surface dried too quickly and did not allow solvents to escape, essentially trapping the solvent gases in the polymer. This can happen due to high temperatures, temperature differences, or excess airflow across the liquid polymer.
With that being said, bubbles have not been seen to be a problem on surface cleanliness since they are in the polymer matrix and not on the surface. If the bubbles do seem to affect surface cleanliness the polymer can be reapplied and will clean the surafce once dry and peeled again.
Can First Contact™ be used as a "glue"?
Yes! Both our engineers and our customers have used First Contact™ to temporarily "glue" two substrates together. For example, to temporarily stick filters to an optical surface and powder sample holders to a substrate. The two surfaces can be rotated to break the polymer "bond" and the resultant surfaces will be clean with no residue and no need for additional cleaning steps. If the dry film between the surfaces was too thin to properly peel, additional polymer can be applied, allowed to dry, then peeled as normal.