Take-up rates of condoms is still relatively low because many men find the rubber sheath that cover their penis affecting their sexual pleasure during intimate moments with their wives, girlfriends or partners.
To address that problem, often compared to wearing a raincoat while taking a bath, University of Wollongong biomedical engineer Robert Gorkin has designed a condom using a material that feels like skin, not like the rubbery feel of current models, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
In crafting a mould for the prototype, he had to endure the embarrassing experience of visiting sex shops and buying dildoes to find out the best materials that could withstand certain temperatures and other things.
One shop owner have him a puzzled look, Gorkin recalled.
His condom is moving one step closer to production since on Wednesday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Gorkin a $100,000 grant to further develop his design. The Gates Foundation launched in 2013 an initiative for better condom designs to help combat sexually transmitted diseases and control population.
Gorkin said he would use a material called tough hydrogels which is a network of long-chain polymers embedded with water to make it super strong while being remarkably elastic. The material would allow integration of lubricants and drugs and be biodegradable, avoiding latex allergies.
Sina Naficy, a materials engineer and member of Gorkin's team in the university, compared the hydrogels to a wet, soft, squishy material similar to body tissue which would address the perceived lack of sensation on the penis for condoms made of latex.
Gorkin said, "We need to design condoms that men want to use because they increase sexual pleasure."