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Stronger, Softer, Thinner, Cheaper: The Quest for a Better Condom

Stronger, Softer, Thinner, Cheaper: The Quest for a Better Condom
Photograph by Lili K./Corbis

Back in March, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation posed an open challenge to the world: Could scientists build a better condom? A design that “preserves or enhances pleasure” so more people would use it and the world would reap the public health benefits of safer sex?

The billionaire Microsoft founder’s philanthropy today announced eight proposals it picked from more than 800 applications for initial $100,000 grants. Among them: a plan to boost “strength and sensitivity using collagen fibrils from bovine tendons, which are widely available from meat processing.” Another would incorporate graphene—a material consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms—with other components to “produce thinner, heat conducting condoms.”