Development of a next generation condom which could be as thin as human hair is progressing in the University of Queensland, Australia. The researchers are collaborating with the aboriginal traditional owners of the Camooweal region in north-west Queensland, the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu People, in using a native Australian grass.
Fiber extracted from the Australian spinifex grass is being used to improve the latex for making thinnest of condoms, but without any loss in strength. They have already developed a method of extracting nanocellulose, which can be used as an additive in latex production, from the grass.
According to the researcher Darren Martin, the great thing about nanocellulose is that it’s a flexible and nano-additive, so the scientists can make a stronger and thinner membrane that is supple and flexible, which is the Holy Grail for natural rubber.
“We tested our latex formulation on a commercial dipping line in the United States and conducted a burst test that inflates condoms and measures the volume and pressure, and on average got a performance increase of 20% in pressure and 40% in volume compared to the commercial latex control sample,” he said.
With a little more refinement, the researchers think they can engineer a latex condom that’s about 30% thinner, and will still pass all standards, and with more process optimization work we will be able to make devices even thinner than this.