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Canadian grad invents world’s thinnest condom

How thin is thin enough?

A Canadian engineering grad has invented the world's thinnest latex condom, 0.036 millimetres thin. Guinness World Records awarded the honour to Victor Chan and his Aoni condom, which beat Japan's Okamoto, the previous record-holder at 0.038 millimetres.

The endeavour was "quite tricky," Chan told The Province. The inventor grew up in Vancouver, graduating from the University of British Columbia before joining his family's booming condom-manufacturing business in Hong Kong. Health Canada has approved his ultra-thin condoms; Chan's now rejigging Aoni's marketing for a North American audience.

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Designing a rubber that men will actually want to use is a long-standing challenge. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched an international contest last year, inviting inventors to build a better condom. They've awarded 11 winners $100,000 (U.S.) to build a more pleasurable male contraceptive; inventors are eligible for $1-million more if their prototypes look promising. The goal is to reduce sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies worldwide.

"We are looking for a Next Generation Condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use," according to the Gates' Grand Challenges in Global Health website. "The primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable, particularly given that the decisions about use must be made just prior to intercourse."

Among the 11 hopefuls are:

  • A one-size-fits-all design from Cambridge that will “gently tighten during intercourse, enhancing sensation and reliability.” Vice grip, anyone?
  • Warm fuzzies: A University of Manchester team combining latex with graphene, a strong and highly elastic material that also conducts heat.
  • For water babies, a Boston University prototype that uses a “super-hydrophilic nanoparticle coating” that traps a thin film of water to reduce friction, breakage and “shearing forces.”
  • The beefcake: A San Diego company promises a “more natural sensation,” experimenting with “collagen fibrils from bovine tendons, which are widely available from meat processing.”
  • The “Rapidom,” a condom applicator from a South African company that helps partners put rubbers on in one quick and easy motion, “thereby minimizing interruption.”
  • California Family Health Council’s “wrapping” condom, which uses polyethylene, a non-toxic, hypoallergenic material that doesn’t “squeeze” – it “wraps and clings.” Is this about love, or leftovers?
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