Ultra-thin condoms made of grass are ‘strongest in the world’ – research
The main material is spinifex grass, a plant that grows in Australian sand dunes. The grass is turned to pulp, and then added to latex.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Queensland, led by Professor Darren Martin, who are set to release the details later this year, according to media outlet Inverse.
Commercial tests have proved successful, and at the end of last year the team made a latex-grass condom just 45 microns thick – the width of a human hair.
"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 percent in pressure and 40 percent in volume compared to the commercial latex control sample," he said.
And the scientists believe they can do better still.
“With a little more refinement, we think we can engineer a latex condom that's about 30 percent thinner, and will still pass all standards, and with more process optimization work we will be able to make devices even thinner than this,” Professor Martin said in the official press release by the University of Queensland.
The team also involved indigenous Indjalandji-Dhidhanu people to get the nanocellulose from the grass.
“The great thing about our nanocellulose is that it's a flexible nano-additive, so we can make a stronger and thinner membrane that is supple and flexible, which is the Holy Grail for natural rubber,” Professor Martin said.
Spinifex grass was traditionally used by local tribes as an adhesive.
Apart from its use in condoms, the revolutionary substance could be profitable for medicine: thinner latex gloves could provide more “sensitive feel” for surgeons, researchers emphasized.