The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a team of scientists $100,000 US to develop a new super thin and durable condom made with graphene — a layer of carbon that is only one atom thick.
A research team from the University of Manchester has received a Grand Challenges Exploration Grant to develop a new composite nanomaterial using latex and graphene for "next generation" condoms.
“This composite material will be tailored to enhance the natural sensation during intercourse while using a condom, which should encourage condom use,” the foundation said.
Graphene is the strongest, thinnest and most thermally conductive solid material in the world. It’s expected to revolutionize electronics, including touch screens and light panels. It was discovered by Russian-born scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2004, earning them the Nobel prize for physics in 2010.
Earlier this year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation called for submissions to create new condoms using new concept designs and materials aimed at improving "uptake and regular use."
One of the initiatives the charity bankrolls is the Grand Challenges on Global Health, a series of grants in which the foundation lays out its aims for a project and offers funds for any group that can best meet the criteria.
“The primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable, particularly given that the decisions about use must be made just prior to intercourse,” the foundation said in issuing the challenge.
“Is it possible to develop a product without this stigma, or better, one that is felt to enhance pleasure? If so, would such a product lead to substantial benefits for global health, both in terms of reducing the incidence of unplanned pregnancies and in prevention of infection with HIV or other STIs?”
The graphene condom research will be led by Aravind Vijayaraghavan at the National Graphene Institute at Manchester.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also awarded grants to 10 other condom research groups on Wednesday, including a group looking to design a condom with universal fit that gently tightens during intercourse and a group testing an applicator that will apply condoms in one single action.