Would you actually use this new condom made from this material?
While it’s common knowledge that condoms save lives and help prevent unwanted pregnancy, it’s also common knowledge that they sometimes aren’t that fun to use. Only around 60% of sexually active high school students reported using a condom the last time they had sex. The situation has gotten so bad that Bill Gates recently offered a $100,000 grant to anyone who can create a condom that enhances pleasure, rather than stifles it.
Creating thinner, more-comfortable condoms that people are more likely to actually use, then, should be a public-health priority. A team of scientists at Queensland University like to think they have the answer — a condom derived from grass, thinner than a human hair but as strong and efficient at stopping STIs and unplanned pregnancy as a conventional latex condom.
The condoms are, of course, not woven purely from grass. Instead, they are essentially latex condoms mixed with nanocellulose — a lightweight, durable material with properties similar to Kevlar. Kevlar. If that doesn’t sound hardcore, not sure what does.
They plan to extract the nanocellulose from spinifex grass, which indigenous communities in Australia have used for thousands of years to attach their spear heads to wooden shafts (insert your own condom/penis joke here — it’s asking for it).
Producing nanocellulose from spinifex involves chopping up the grass into a pulp and then shoving it through a tiny hole to peel the nanofibers apart from the pulp. The nanocellulose is then suspended in water, where it can be easily mixed with water-based latex.
The end result? A super ultra-thin latex product. And because less latex is actually used, material cost in production could potentially drop.
As awesome as they sound, grass condoms are not quite ready for primetime. The FDA classifies condoms as a Class II medical device (not even kidding), which means the paperwork alone would take about six months (and $5,000) to process. Regardless, we hope to see these on the market soon.