A grass native to Australia could revolutionize the condom industry. Research from the University of Queensland believe a material almost 10,000 times thinner than human hair can be extracted from spinifex grass and then added to latex to produce condoms predicted by researchers to be 30 percent thinner than those currently on the market. And unlike sheepskin condoms, the spinifex condoms should protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
"It's the toughest nanocellulose ever reported," says Dr. Nasim Amiralian, a fellow at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland. "Nanocellulose [thin but strong plant fibers] can be extracted from almost any cellulosic material, but the special advantages of spinifex nanocellulose are that it has the highest aspect ratio, meaning it's very long and very thin, and its specific cell wall structure engenders flexibility."
In other words, the spinifex nanocellulose condoms would be more tear-, burst-, and puncture-resistant than latex condoms of the same thickness, while allowing for a more skinlike feel and improved sensation. Plus, the extraction process uses a low amount of energy, which should keep production costs down, says Ameralian.
The researchers worked with the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu people native to the area where spinifex grass grows in the development of the latex additive, and the University of Queensland says that they've signed an agreement with the Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation stating that the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu will have an "ongoing equity and involvement in the commercialization of the nanocellulose technology," according to a university press release.
The researchers are following ISO and ASTM international standards for safety testing and guess that the grass condoms could hit store shelves in two to three years.