Lab-enhanced, for your pleasure: Super condoms to be made from graphene, say Manchester scientists

By James Metcalf

It’s been developed for mascara, solar energy and magnetics but now scientists have used miracle-material graphene for a very alternative use… safe sex.

The University of Manchester, with the help of Bill gates and his wife, are looking to use graphene in the manufacture of condoms.

Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan and his team of scientists received a grant of $100,000 (£62,123) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the next generation of super condoms.

The grant, part of the Grand Challenges Explorations venture, was presented globally to inventors with the aim of bringing the condom to wider use.

Graphene is the world’s thinnest, strongest and most conductive material and is used throughout the world, from smartphones and computer chips to fast-delivery broadband.

Dr Vijayaraghavan said: “This composite material will be tailored to enhance the natural sensation during intercourse while using a condom, which should encourage and promote condom use. 

“This will be achieved 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.”

Though the condoms will feel different to use, they will be packaged liked standard condoms and could therefore involve the same number of varieties as the current form of contraceptive.

Dr Vijayaraghavan said that the next obvious step is the female condom, which has received significantly less attention compared to its male counterpart.

He told MM: “Graphene is a very multi-functional material, so depending on the success of the project, there might be scope for more innovative modifications of condoms based on this new composite material.”

It is something of a home-coming for graphene, as it was first isolated at the University of Manchester by Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov, both of whom went on to win the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010.

After developments in testing the material the university will enter a partnership with condom manufacturers to develop the product.

Dr Vijayaraghavan said: “Since its isolation in 2004, people have wondered when graphene will be used in our daily life. Currently, people imagine using graphene in mobile-phone screens, food packaging, chemical sensors, etc.

“If this project is successful, we might have a use for graphene which will literally touch our every-day life in the most intimate way.”

Image courtesy of Flegmus via WikiCommons, with thanks.

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