Graphene: The wonder material being used to create thinner, stronger condoms and help fight spread of Aids

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation help fund development of the new material to promote condom use and stop the spread of HIV

It's a "wonder" material with "limitless" potential and now a team of scientists is set to use graphene to develop a thinner, stronger, safer and more enjoyable condom.

The team of researchers at the University of Manchester received a grant of $100,000 on Wednesday from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop new composite nano-materials for the next generation of condoms which could help stop the spread of HIV and Aids. The announcement of the grant came on the same day as a British company among the leaders in the race to scale-up manufacture of graphene was floated on the London Stock Exchange for £36.4m.

The material, which is almost a million times thinner than a human hair and harder than diamond, was first isolated by Russian scientists Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov at the university in 2004.

Since then it has led to more than 7,500 graphene–based patents worldwide for everything from smartphones to computer chips. It also earned the two scientists the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010. However a new report has described Britain’s efforts at commercialising the material as “woeful” despite it being a flagship government policy.

Now a team led by Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan at the newly established National Graphene Institute at Manchester University is to carry out research to develop the technology to make composite condoms that are more desirable to use. To do this they intend to create a composite by mixing graphene with an elastic polymer, such as latex which is traditionally used in condoms.

“This composite material will be tailored to enhance the natural sensation during intercourse while using a condom, which should encourage and promote condom use,” said Dr Vijayaraghavan. “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.“

He added: ”Since its isolation in 2004, people have wondered when graphene will be used in our daily life. Currently, people imagine using graphene in mobile-phone screens, food packaging and chemical sensors…If this project is successful, we might have a use for graphene which will literally touch our everyday life in the most intimate way.”

Further reading:

* A journey to the heart of Africa’s Aids epidemic

* The condom conundrum: how to persuade Africa's prostitutes to practice safe sex

* Hope for the future as Malawi battles the Aids virus's capacity to infect succeeding generations  

Applied Graphene Materials (AGM), a Durham University spin-out looking to tap into the potential of graphene, floated on a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday and was valued at £36.4m after investors jumped to cash in on the emerging technology.

In a statement prior to the firm’s floatation its chief executive Jon Mabbitt said the listing would help expand capacity at its Durham plant from one ton to eight tons of grapheme per year. He added that “household names” including Proctor & Gamble and Dyson were partner organisation in the research and other firms were interested in its production.

Water purification is among graphene’s potential global uses (Getty) Water purification is among graphene’s potential global uses (Getty)
Graphene could also be used to create batteries that charge in seconds and AGM is one of the global leaders in the technology to scale-up the manufacture of the material.

However Dr Helen Meese, head of materials at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers warned that “despite the UK being at the very forefront of graphene research, the country’s commercialisation of the material has been woeful.”

In 2011 Chancellor George Osborne announced a £50m national research programme for grapheme and a National Graphene Institute to harness its commercial power, however according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers there have only been 54 graphene-based patents filed in the UK. This is less than 1 per cent of the global total and far fewer than the 2,200 held by firms in China and the 1,754 by firms in South Korea.

Dr Meese added: “The graphene community has to agree on a timescale for commercialisation now and develop a clear road map for on-going research and development.  The UK must also establish how it intends to compete in terms of market share and mass production.”

Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home