Condoms Made From Graphene
November 22, 2013

UK Researchers Awarded Grant To Develop Graphene Condoms

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The highly-touted wonder-material graphene won the Nobel Prize for its ability to revolutionize circuit boards, food packaging, and countless other products. Now, it has won another honor – a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that will lead to the development of a new and improved condom.

In actuality, that grant was awarded to the UK’s National Graphene Institute, a research facility at the University of Manchester currently scheduled to open in 2015. Experts there plan to use the substance, which is a single-atom thick form of carbon originally discovered in 2004, to create thinner, stronger and safer contraceptives, according to Richard Gray, Science Correspondent with The Telegraph.

“This composite material will be tailored to enhance the natural sensation during intercourse while using a condom, which should encourage and promote condom use,” Dr. Aravind Vijayaraghavan, a materials scientist at the university, told Gray. He added that he believes that the substance can be used to create condoms that are actually more enjoyable to use by “combining the strength of graphene with the elasticity of latex to produce a new material which can be thinner, stronger, more stretchy, safer and, perhaps most importantly, more pleasurable.”

According to BBC News, graphene is the thinnest and strongest material known to man, and was originally discovered by Manchester scientists Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov. The duo won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010, and while it has been linked to next-generation versions of things like smartphones and broadband internet, this will be the first “everyday use” of the substance, according to Dr. Vijayaraghavan.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation originally issued their condom challenge in March, offering $100,000 through the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program to the student, scientist, or entrepreneur who could develop a new type of male contraceptive that would be less of a burden to wear. The intention was to make them more appealing, thus increasing the likelihood that men would actually use them during intercourse.

“The common analogy is that wearing a condom is like taking a shower with a raincoat on. A redesigned condom that overcomes inconvenience, fumbling or perceived loss of pleasure would be a powerful weapon in the fight against poverty,” Dr. Papa Salif Sow , senior program officer on the Gates Foundation’s HIV team, told The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright.

According to New York Times reporter Pam Belluck, the National Graphene Institute was one of 11 winners of the challenge, with each receiving awards of $100,000. The foundation received a total of 812 applications, and announced that the winners included a long-time India-based condom manufacturers and chemical engineers from the US.

Each could ultimately receive up to $1 million from the organization once their ideas are developed, Belluck added. Some of the concepts pitched as part of the challenge include a condom that would be made from collagen fibers from cows’ Achilles tendons or possibly fish skin and would feel like skin; one made from polyethylene plastic that “clings like Saran Wrap,” and two entries developing polyurethane-based contraceptives.