Thanks to Bill Gates, Condoms of Future May Have Saran-Wrap Fit, Shape Memory and Pull Tabs

Saturday, November 23, 2013
Condom testing center in China (AP Photo)

One of the world’s richest philanthropic foundations has awarded more than $1 million to inventors who can make condoms easier and friendlier to use.


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offered $100,000 each to anyone coming up with ways to encourage condom use and reduce unwarranted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It received 812 applications, and selected 11 winners with “next-generation” condom concepts.


The recipients will be eligible for additional funding, up to $1 million, if they develop their ideas.


Those ideas include using cow tendon or fish skin to make condoms, crafting them with “shape memory” so they mold to a specific man, or including “pull tabs” to allow for easy donning.


Winners ranged from a condom manufacturer in India to American chemical engineers to British design consultants who worked on vacuum cleaners.


One of the winners proposed a type of collagen condom that would be so “unbelievably strong” that “I could yank all day and not break this thing.” Another is adapting his condom from a plastic Colombian version that is the size of a credit card and “clings like Saran Wrap rather than squeezes.”


Another took a psychedelic approach, planning condoms that come in different colors and contain antiviral or antibacterial drugs.


A South African inventor plans to test a condom applicator that would allow a single-motion attachment to minimize interruption of heated foreplay. Meanwhile, a British team has in mind a sort of living condom that will “gently tighten” during intercourse, the purpose being to enhance both sensation and reliability.


Dr. Papa Salif Sow, a Gates Foundation senior program officer, told The New York Times that many ideas were geared towards improving sensation and “reducing the loving distance between partners, so they will be more close.”


He added that improved donning was important because “in sub-Saharan Africa, sex is basically done with low light and it might be very difficult to see the direction of the condom.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Condom Contest Produces 812 Ideas for Improvement (by Pam Belluck, New York Times)

Gates Foundation Awards Grants to Test Ideas Ranging from using Big Data for Social Good to Inventing the Next Generation of Condoms (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

$423,500 Government Grant to Study Why Men Don’t Like Condoms (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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