Sex & Relationships

11 New Condom Ideas -- Will Casual Sex Ever be the Same?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put out a call to build a better condom and 800 inventors, scientists and innovators responded to the Gates challenge.

Photo Credit: Yeko Photo Studio/

You know the old saw: Wearing a condom during sex is like taking a shower in a raincoat. As a result of the loss of sensation, and other factors like lack of availability, poverty and just not caring enough, condom usage worldwide is estimated at about 5 percent. This paltry number has tremendous implications for both public health and poverty.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put out a call to build a better condom—to create the next generation of condom, one that enhances pleasure and is easier to use than the good ol' latex sheath, which has not changed much in the last, oh, say 500 years. Sure, there’s ribbing and other textures, colors and even flavors—and there was the helpful addition of the reservoir at the tip. But there’s still a fair amount of fumbling in the dark when it comes to condoms. Clearly, a real breakthrough is needed.

A little over 800 inventors, scientists and innovators responded to the Gates challenge. Eleven of them received $100,000 each to continue developing their products. Some suggested different, thinner-yet-stronger materials than latex; others focused on ease of application. Here they are: the 11 potential condoms of tomorrow.

1. Ultra-Sensitive Reconstituted Collagen Condom

This is a condom made with bovine tendons, which are cheap, plentiful and strong. The condom would have a skin-like surface which would “facilitate heat transfer” and offer a “more natural sensation,” according to its developer, Mark McGlothlin at Apex Medical Technologies in San Diego.

2. Dynamic, Universal Fit, Low-Cost Condom

This prophylactic would be made of a material (a “composite anisotropic,” to be exact) that allows it to shrink to fit the person who is wearing it. It is “designed to gently tighten during intercourse, enhancing sensation and reliability," says developer Benjamin Strutt at Cambridge Design Partnership, Cambridge, England.

3. Ultra-Sheer "Wrapping" Condom with Superior Strength

Rather than shrink-to-fit like the one above, this condom made of super-strong, super-thin polyethylene would be designed to cling to the mail member, yeupp, like Saran Wrap. So says developer Ron Frezieres at California Family Health Council, Los Angeles, who has found a prototype in Colombia he wants to improve on. The condom would also have pull tabs that would be part of the sheath. You can see an illustration of Frezieres' condom in action here.

4. Project Rapidom

The Rapidom is a condom delivery device; applicator handles, basically, which are separate from the condom itself. The theory is that easier application takes less time, is less of an interruption, and the condom will always be positioned properly. There’s already a prototype of the Rapidom, which will be further field-tested. It’s designed by Willem van Rensburg at Kimbranox (Pty) Limited, Stellenbosch in South Africa.

5. Biologically Inspired Condom

A polymer compound would be created that would “mimic the properties of mucosal tissue,” or lubricated skin, and be able to be mass-produced at low cost, says would-be creator
 Patrick Kiser at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

6. Graphene-Based Polymer Composites For High Heat Transfer, Improved Sensitivity and Drug Delivery

Graphene is a crystalline form of carbon that has various desirable properties—it’s super-thin, extremely strong and highly flexible. And it conducts heat, according to the Gates Foundation. It would be mixed with current condom materials to make thinner, heat-conducting condoms. This condom, developed by Lakshminarayanan Ragupathy at HLL Lifecare, in Trivandrum, India, would also incorporate drugs to enhance both safety and pleasure.

 7. Super-Hydrophilic Nanoparticle Condom Coating

In this case, the condom would wear a coat, or rather a “super-hydrophilic nanoparticle coating.” It’s a super-thin layer to better protect against breakage and transmission of infections, and is being developed by Karen Buch and Ducksoo Kim at Boston University.

8. Ultra-Thin Adaptable Condoms for Enhanced Sensitivity

The name tells part of the story. Richard Chartoff at the University of Oregon in Eugene plans to make a condom using polyurethane elastic polymers for a strong, very thin material that conforms to the user, a process that is activated by warmth. It’s said that the material would be half as thin as latex condoms, hence more sensation.

9. Condom Applicator Pack (CAP)

As the name suggests, this is another condom delivery device. No more need to put on a condom with bare hands. No more risk of tearing.
 Condoms and applicator would come together in one tidy package. This one comes from Sydney, Australia and is the brainchild of Michael Rutner and Russell Burley.

10. Enhanced Condom Using Nanomaterials

The idea here is to create a new “composite elastic” material to make condoms that enhance natural sensation. Graphene, a miracle nanomaterial, would be used, since it is also very strong (like, 100 times stronger than steel, it’s been said.) Aravind Vijayaraghavan and his team at the University of Manchester in England are working on it.

11. Ultra-Sensory Condoms Based on New Superelastomer Technology

The goal here is to develop a super-cheap, super-thin condom that mimics the texture of human skin, so you won’t even know it is there. Chemist Jimmy Mays at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville would do that using superelastomers, which he describes as a “highly elastic polymer.”