The Australian native spinifex grass, which has been used as adhesive by indigenous Australians, can be used to make condoms “as thin as human hair without losing any strength.” Researchers from the University of Queensland say their latex formulation can create condoms 30 percent thinner than current products, making sex feel more natural.
“You would firstly hedge the grass, and then it would be chopped up and pulped with sodium hydroxide — and at that stage it just looks like paper pulp,” says Nasim Amiralian from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), The University of Queensland. “Then you hit it with mechanical energy to force it through a very small hole under high pressure to peel the nano-fibres apart from the pulp, into nanocellulose happily suspended in water and ready to add to things like water-based rubber latex.”
“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,” says study researcher Darren Martin. “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 per cent in pressure and 40 per cent in volume compared to the commercial latex control sample.”
Additionally, this formula can also be used to develop gloves for healthcare professionals. The gloves would improve sensitivity and lessen the hand fatigue experienced by surgeons.
Peter Høj, the university’s Vice-Chancellor, adds that the new product can help in the fight against global health issues such as HIV and AIDS. The researchers also hope that this can help create change, pave the way for new and improved products and solutions as well as support further innovation.