Bill Gates' next project: condoms for the developing world

Gates has granted Manchester University £62,000 to research making condoms out of a new material.

Joe Svetlik Reporter
Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.
Joe Svetlik
2 min read

Bill Gates is funding research into making a new type of condom. And the research is going on right here in Blighty.

The University of Manchester has been granted $100,000 (£61,672) by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant is to research making condoms out of graphene, which the university describes as a 'wonder material'. It's part of the Foundation's Grand Challenges Explorations in Global Health programme, which supports projects that improve the wellbeing of people in the developing world.

So why graphene? Well it's not pure graphene the condoms will be made from, but a composite -- graphene mixed with an elastic polymer like latex, which is found in normal condoms. Graphene is the world's thinnest, strongest and most conducive material, and has loads of technological applications, including smart phones and ultra-fast broadband.

It should allow condoms to be made thinner without losing their strength, which should enhance the sensation of having sex. It's hoped this will encourage more people to use them, cutting the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.

"This composite material will be tailored to enhance the natural sensation during intercourse while using a condom, which should encourage and promote condom use," says Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan from the University of Manchester.

"This will be achieved by combining the strength of graphene with the elasticity of latex, to produce a new material which can be thinner, stronger, more stretchy, safer and, perhaps most importantly, more pleasurable."

Graphene has its roots in Manchester. It was first isolated at the university by Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov, in 2004. In 2010, it earned these two scientists the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Bill Gates is still chairman of Microsoft, but he also heads up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds good causes. He's also popped up on Reddit to let us know he'd rather fight a horse-size duck than 100 duck-size horses. Though in fairness, he was just answering a question, it's not like he logged on just to tell us that.

What do you think of the University of Manchester's research? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Microsoft