Scientists in Australia have discovered that a tough, spiky variety of native grass can be used to make condoms that are reportedly “as thin as a human hair”—without any loss in strength. Fibers from the Australian native spinifex grass, which thrives on the poorest, most arid soils Australia has to offer, can significantly improve the physical properties of latex. These researchers are convinced that, with a slight refinement of the technology, they can engineer a latex condom that is about 30% thinner, but will still pass all standards.
Working in partnership with Aboriginal traditional owners of the Camooweal region in north-west Queensland, the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu People, researchers from The University of Queensland have developed a method of extracting nanocellulose—which can be used as an additive in latex production—from the grass.
Professor Darren Martin from UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) described the spinifex nanocellulose as a “flexible nano-additive,” which therefore allowed the research team to make a stronger and thinner membrane that is supple and flexible.