How Trojan's Condom Developer Tries to Make Safe Sex Fun

<a href=Mike Harrison of Trojan Condoms" />

The tricky job of making Trojan's condoms continually thinner and more pleasurable—while also ensuring their safety— is done by a mild-mannered Brit. How does condom developer and chief principle scientist Mike Harrison do it?

Harrison arrived at Trojan in 1992 after a five-year stint working at an R&D lab for a Cambridge-based company that manufactures latex gloves and condoms. Since joining Trojan, Harrison has worked on product development, improving the company's new technology, interactions with the FDA, condom standards, and writing patents. On a daily basis, Harrison says he "searches for innovative new technologies we can put in the Trojan line. We're looking for sex to be better with Trojan products than without it."

Condoms have progressed significantly since Harrison first came to Trojan. The company already used latex and natural lamb skin condoms when Harrison joined, but three major innovations have popped up since then. One of the biggest, Harrison says, was the development of a polyurethane condom that is latex allergen-free. That condom—the Supra—was launched in 1999. "It was a game-changer for Trojan in terms of technology," Harrison explains. "It required new manufacturing abilities, new testing, and new lubricant systems."

Trojan has also made progress in the area of thin condoms. The recently released ultra-thin BareSkin condom is 40% thinner than a standard Trojan condom. It's the thinnest latex condom ever produced by the company.

Harrison's favorite recent innovation is the Trojan Ecstasy, a baggy condom designed for freedom of movement. "The guy moves inside the condom instead of the condom and the guy moving together. It creates a whole new sensation," he says.

While Harrison can't reveal exactly what Trojan is working on now, he tells us that the company is constantly looking at new materials. After a condom has been tested for safety (including tests for volume, thickness, and tensile strength) it goes to a "bedroom panel" of 20 to 30 couples who often work with the company. It's a rigorous gig—couples agree to have sex a certain number of times a month and give a fast turnaround on product evaluation. There is, apparently, a lot of paperwork involved.

After the bedroom panel, condoms move to the next testing stage of evaluations by 100 to 150 couples. If all goes well, the condoms then move into commercial production. In the future, Harrison hints, we can look forward to more baggy condoms and thinner designs. "I don't think we've reach the limits yet," he says. "I think we can go thinner."

Related Story: How Trojan Slipped Into CES

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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