A chemistry professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has received a grant to build a better condom.

According to the school, Jimmy Mays responded to a challenge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build more comfortable condoms. The idea is to increase condom use, especially in developing countries, to help prevent disease and unplanned pregnancies.

Mays' condom design incorporates his work with superelastomers, which can be repeatedly stretched without permanently deforming the shape of the material. This should allow condoms to be made thinner and softer. They also should be less expensive to manufacture.

Mays has received $100,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to development a prototype. Projects demonstrating potential could receive additional funding up to $1 million.