Scientists have been busy racing to figure out what materials will make the thinnest and most flexible condoms. So far, Japanese company Sagami Rubber Industries has been winning.
Over the course of ten years, engineers at Sagami tested over 20,000 condoms and designed a condom that was only 0.01 mm thick — yet entirely durable. To put that into perspective, an average human hair is about 0.06 mm thick.
“Honestly, I don’t know how we can make them thinner than this,” a Sagami researcher told Tokyo Sports, “but as long as there is a need for thinner, we will continue researching 0.009 mm and 0.008 mm thinness.” The condom is called “Sagami Original 0.01.” It costs about $12.
The Sagami Original 0.01 isn’t the first ultra-thin, specially designed condom out there. Plenty of other condoms — many designed in Japan — exist, though they are slightly more expensive than traditional condoms. Sagami, which has been around since 1935, had previously designed a 0.02 mm-thick condom before their Sagami Original 0.01. Sagami was the country’s first condom manufacturer, and the first in the world to produce colored condoms.
“You know that usual smell of a latex condom? Well this condom has no smell at all, and I think you’ll agree that’s a neat feature of a polyurethane condom,” the blog CondomSizes.org writes about the Sagami Original 0.01. “On the other hand, the extreme thinness, and the fact it’s less stretchable makes it a bit harder to unroll.”
However, scientists continue to find ways to experiment with a material called "graphene," which in theory would create the thinnest condom ever — even thinner than Sagami’s. Graphene is so thin, in fact, that it’s only one atom thick, and sturdier than diamond. “Of course, we know that atoms can be divided into elementary particles, but you can’t get any material that is thinner than one atom, or it wouldn’t count as a material anymore,” Andre Geim, a Dutch-British physicist who discovered the substance in 2004, told CNN.
Researchers and those funding them hope to develop safe, effective and more "pleasurable" condoms to help convince more people around the world to use them. Condoms help in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, and can prevent early pregnancies.
Even though the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has devoted some $100,000 to condom researchers at various institutions, the graphene condom may take a while to develop. “[I]t is to be noted that there is no specific timeline for the condom to hit stores near you,” CondomSizes.org writes. “In all likelihood, research in this regard will take a few years before the right graphene composite is synthesized for the perfect condom.”