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.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower