Australian researchers at the University of Queensland have found a way to make latex condoms thinner, stronger, and more flexible than anything else on the market. The scientists extracted nanocellulose from a native variety of grass, spinifex, and used it as an additive in ordinary latex rubber. While a grass condom might sound a little strange, it turns out that adding the natural nanoparticles to rubber actually enhances the latex’s natural properties. This could be the first step toward overcoming some of the most common complaints about condoms reducing sensation during sex, and even enhance safety by making them less likely to break.

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Currently, standard condom brands range in thickness from 0.049 millimeters to 0.121 millimeters — but this new finding could actually reduce condom size by 30 percent while still meeting industry standards for strength and durability. The final product would be about as thin as a human hair. The researchers used a commercial dipping line in the US to produce their grass condoms, and conducted a burst test to see how much volume and pressure the new formula could handle. The spinifex-enhanced condoms ended up performing much better than latex alone, with a 20 percent increase in the amount of pressure they could safely handle, and a 40 percent increase in volume.

Related: Teens design condoms that change color when exposed to sexually transmitted infections

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If condom companies adopt this nano-additive into their formulas, it wouldn’t just result in more comfortable condoms for the wearer. Condom prices would also likely drop due to the decreased amount of latex needed to produce each condom, making them more affordable for the people who need them most. This is big news: an increase in comfort and lower cost would help fight HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and make contraception more widely available worldwide.

Via Medical Daily

Images via Shutterstock 1, 2 and Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology