The competition is one of the Grand Challenges in Global Health, held across sixteen categories. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sponsored the contraception challenge, issuing a call for the next innovation in condoms.
The foundation declared 11 winners who will get a piece of the $1 million prize to develop their ideas, with the aim of decreasing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Some of the ideas are unique, like the one submitted by San Diego-based Mark McGlothlin of Apex Medical Technologies who wants to develop a condom from cow tendons, which will ensure enhanced strength and sensitivity.
Many of the ideas had to do with thinner, more sensitive and stronger condoms using new and innovative materials.
Aravind Vijayaraghavan and a team from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom could make graphene condoms a reality. Once considered the strongest material until the discovery of carbyne, graphene is made up of a single layer of carbon atoms, weighs almost nothing and only lets the smallest particles through it, making it an ideal material for a strong, high-sensitivity condom.
Owing to the fact that many Africans perform sex in low light, South African Willem van Rensburg of Kimbranox Limited will test a condom applicator designed for easy, technique-free application of male condoms.
Notable inventions in other Grand Challenges categories included two vaccines, developed to fight malaria and Rift Valley fever. A low-cost tool was also developed to easily and efficiently harvest cassava, which is a major staple food in the developing world.