Memory foam was originally developed in 1966 under a contract by NASA’s Ames Research Center to improve the safety of aircraft cushions. Nasa later decided to commercialize the foam with applications in medical and sports equipment.
When Nasa released the foam to public domain in the 1980’s there were few companies that were willing to work with them, as the manufacturing process was difficult and unreliable. Initially the foam was very expensive and only used on a small scale. As the manufacturing process became more streamlined, the price of memory foam dropped significantly. This afforded the opportunity to use it on a much larger scale such as mattresses.
1st Generation Memory Foam Mattress
The 1st generation memory foam mattresses ran into problems with heat retention. The foam would trap body heat during the night, and make for a very hot and uncomfortable sleep. Most memory foam detractors will use this old heat retention issue as an example of why innerspring mattresses are better than memory foam mattresses. Its no longer relevant though, as this issue has been solved long ago.
2nd Generation Memory Foam Mattress
With the second iteration of the memory foam mattress, companies started using open-cell structure foam. This allowed for better breathability, which in turn reduced heat retention.
3rd (current) Generation Memory Foam Mattress
In the third iteration of memory foam mattresses, companies developed gel infused foam. The memory foam is infused with gel particles that reduce trapped body heat, speed up spring back time, and help the mattress feel softer. Since the inclusion of gel infused memory foam, various other materials have been added. Aloe vera, green tea extract and activated charcoal have been added to help reduce odors, and maintain freshness.
View my top picks for 3rd generation memory foam mattresses HERE