Queensland researchers are working on a condom that they say is “30% thinner” than any other.
Spinifex grass, a plant traditionally used by indigenous Australians to create spears and chisels, is being used by the researchers from the University of Queensland to make the thinner, stronger condoms.
The plant grows all over outback Australia and contains extra-durable nanocellulose, a substance that, when added to latex, can make condoms 30% thinner than any other product on the market, the researchers said.
ABC News reported the breakthrough would create a new farming industry on the Queensland-Northern Territory border, with the researchers partnering with Aboriginal rangers at Camooweal near the border to harvest the grass.
A production plant is due to begin operating in Queensland later this year.
The researchers extract the nanocellulose from the harvested grass and manufacture a condom potentially as thin as human hair.
“We can make a stronger and thinner membrane that is supple and flexible, which is the Holy Grail for natural rubber,” Professor Darren Martin from the University of Queensland said.
“With a little more refinement, we think we can engineer a latex condom that’s about 30 per cent thinner, and will still pass all standards, and with more process optimisation work we will be able to make devices even thinner than this.
“Late last year we were able to get down to about 45 microns on our very first commercial dipping run, which is around the width of the hair on your head.
“Because you would also use less latex, your material cost in production would potentially drop as well, making it even more attractive to manufacturers.”