Graphene was discovered back in 2004 at the University of Manchester. Russian scientists Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov at Manchester won a Nobel Prize in 2010 for isolating the amazing graphene. More than 7,500 patents have been taken out since the discovery and many experts believe that graphene could be the key to strong condoms.
Despite all of the excitement following the initial discovery of graphene, things have fallen flat. The patent holders haven’t really done much of anything with graphene-based wonder products but there seems to be a ton of potential floating around. In fact, the London Stock Exchanged valued Applied Graphene Materials (AGM) at £36.4m ($58.59m) based on the total potential of graphene-based products. Major companies like Proctor & Gamble and Dyson have been working to get in on the graphene bandwagon. In the future, everything from cell phones to food packages could be made from the wonder-material.
One of the most publicized projects at the National Graphene Institute at Manchester University is being carried out by Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan. After years of testing, Vijayaraghavan believes that a blend of graphene and latex is the key to thinner, safer, stronger, and more comfortable condoms.
So, what is the difference between latex only condoms and those with a graphene mix? Is there any reason to believe that this won’t just fall into the bottomless pit of great products that no one actually wants to use?
One thing that makes graphene the perfect condom material is its strength. Since its discovery, it has been hailed as the thinnest and strongest material in existence. Needless to say, that is the combination that is viewed as the holy grail in the condom industry.
The other thing that has made graphene biggest news is Bill Gates. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have called for the invention of a better condom. The prize is a $100,000 grant followed by up to $1 million in future funding. Graphene could be the key to strong condoms but is it enough to win?
What exactly is Gates looking for? In recent statements about the condom challenge, Gates asked: “What if we could develop a condom that would provide all the benefit of our current versions, without the drawbacks? Even better, what if we could develop one that was preferred to no condom?”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been working for years to stop the spread of preventable diseases through education and immunization. They have been particularly focused on HIV, which affects more than 33 million people worldwide.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced that “[n]ew HIV infections have fallen by more than 20 percent in the past decade, but each year the newly infected outnumber those who gain access to treatment by two to one.” Gates believes that better condoms and improved education could create a dramatic reduction in new cases.
As research quickly moves forward, time will tell if Bill Gates agrees that graphene could be the key to strong condoms and improved global health.
Written by Nicci Mende