When we think of NASA and space technology generally we just think about all the different space shuttle missions, the International Space Station and other NASA programs over the years. This is usually all that you will ever see in the news. What we rarely ever see though are the different inventions and different rewards that we receive in our daily lives that have come directly from NASA's space technology. One of those great inventions would be NASA's memory foam.
Credit needs to be given to Charles Yost. He was an aeronautical engineer who happen to work on the 1962 Apollo module recover. With crash and vibration protection with some sort of energy absorbing techniques being their goals is what led him to developing the memory foam back in 1966. Back in 1969, a company called Dynamic Systems, Inc. were the first ones who sold the product called “temper foam”. Memory foam is now in the Space Technology Hall of Fame.
There are two true forms of memory foam that were developed right after the initial invention. They are called SunMate and Pudgee. The SunMate probably accounts for about 80% of Dynamic Systems sales. This is now used in orthopedic seating pads, mattress pads and FIPS (Foam in place seating) used for a lot of wheelchairs. The Pudgee form helps to provide relief from the skin breaking down. Then there is Laminar which is the what you get when you bond SunMate and Pudgee together.
The most significant thing with regards to memory foam is the improvements that have been made in a variety of different medical devices. The FIPS is a custom molded insert made of the memory foam and will protect different body parts from stress and fatigue. It will also help to improve the blood circulation by helping to distribute the seating pressure more evenly. The FIPS is actually a liquid that will harden quickly in order to make a custom seat. Prosthetic items also have found a way to modify FIPS to absorb skin color dyes and to make them feel more natural. It is even used for veterinary prosthetic devices as well.
The different medical benefits have simply been life saving especially for those with improved circulation for patients that are bed bound and wheelchair bound. Even helmets, helicopter seating, plane ejection seats and bulletproof vests use memory foam.
There is potential to be able to use this invention in even more ways. One way is for energy absorption as for crash protection material on Earth. There is a solid state foaming product that can be rigid at room temperature but once it becomes heated in any where it will become spongy.
Final Note: As wonderful as memory foam is, it is definitely not recommended for the use with babies. Babies should not use any kind of mattress or pillow that leaves any kind of impression on it.