Durable and Sensitive Tough Hydrogel Condoms
Robert Gorkin of the University of Wollongong in Australia is developing tough hydrogels as an alternative material to latex for making male condoms with enhanced tactile (touch) sensitivity to improve sexual experience. Tough hydrogels are highly elastic and mechanically tough materials. Unlike latex, they can increase sensitivity to touch, incorporate lubrication, and be coupled to other components, such as stimulants and antiviral drugs. In Phase I, they synthesized candidate tough hydrogel formulations and showed that they had sufficient mechanical and barrier properties to be suitable condom materials, and could be manufactured to international safety standards. A preliminary trial of target users rated tough hydrogels nicer to touch than latex. In Phase II, they will tailor the condoms to the needs of specific communities by surveying target populations to identify desirable properties that will promote use. They will also optimize production and engineer prototypes for a user acceptance and performance trial to evaluate whether they enhance sexual experience.