With all the advertising about memory foam nowadays days, it's hard to imagine that this material has only been around for just over 35 years. It's difficult to find an exact date when memory foam first came into existance, but it was originally formulated during the early days of manned space flight (mid to late 1960's).
The National Aeronautics & Space Administration – more commonly known as NASA, needed a material that would cushion the astronauts from unparalleled g-forces from the launch and re-entry during space missions. In response to their requirement, a material was produced, called visco-elastic memory foam.
The English dictionary gives no definition for the word visco, but the word is derived from viscous, meaning "gummy or pasty". In simple terms visco means a cross between a solid and a liquid. We are quite familiar with the term elastic to which the definition is "being able to return to it's original shape after being deformed".
That's enough of a grammar lesson. The point is that this material is unique and hadn't existed before. The whole idea of showing a picture with a hand print, over the top of a memory foam mattress, is to illustrate that this material isn't forcefully pushing against you. That's why it takes a while for the memory foam to react and slowly return, to it's original shape once the hand is removed.
The other quality, of visco elastic memory foam, is that it's temperature reactive. When it's heated, it becomes softer and when it's cooled, it becomes firmer. A body laying on the memory foam material, will heat it, making it softer under that heated area. Again, it's not clear whether or not this earlier version of the memory foam material was ever actually used in any space missions.
Medical researchers have more money to experiment than consumer businesses, so it was in medical research that memory foam was found to be a great inhibitor to bedsores. Bedsores occur when the blood supply to the capillaries is restricted over a period of time. Bedsores are also called pressure ulcers.
Since the unique character of memory foam is it's ability to melt away from anywhere that pressure is applied, bed sores are reduced or eliminated. It's broad use, in the medical field, finally led to the cost effective use of memory foam for consumer mattresses. Now, memory foam mattresses have come into the mainstream in the mattress industry.
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