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gel-infused foam / soy-based foam

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26 Aug 2012 21:39 #1 by sleeperawake
I have seen the following types of foam in mattresses while searching:
gel-infused foam - is this the same as buckling column gel that you mention in materials for the comfort layer?
advanced soy based dual Omalon foam - what is this?
pre-crushed memory foam - does this do anything to the properties of the memory foam?

You said that some manufacturer "call" their foam latex, when it is really polyfoam. Is there a way to know if it is really latex?

Do you know any good manufacturers in the Oklahoma City area?

Thanks for all the help!

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27 Aug 2012 00:40 - 30 Jan 2016 19:27 #2 by Phoenix
Hi sleeperawake,

gel-infused foam - is this the same as buckling column gel that you mention in materials for the comfort layer?


There are a few posts around the forum that talk about gel memory foams or gel infused foams so I thought I would use your question as an excuse to amalgamate them and create a reference post (that will likely become a page on the site as more information becomes available).

The gel that is used in various gel foams (most commonly memory foams) is a type of thermoplastic polyurethane that is used to change the performance characteristics of the foams they are added to including memory foam but other foams as well. In effect the "gel memory foams" are a sub group of memory foam with similar properties. They have been used for a number of years (and the buckling column gels use the same material in a different form) but were recently popularized by the success of the iComfort, Serta's successful advertising campaign, and their "showroom feel" which was very successful. The Serta version uses gel "beads" or particles mixed into memory foam. Of course in the mattress industry ... when one company is successful with a variation of a material then everyone else will quickly come out with their own version to keep their market share which is exactly what is happening.

Gel is very heavy, strong, and elastic and in the better formulations can add several properties to memory foam including faster response time, conductive cooling properties, phase change properties in some cases, and less temperature sensitivity. The gels can also add some support properties to memory foams (at least compared to other memory foams because all versions of memory foam including the gel versions are too soft to be used as a support layer).

The type of gel added to foams can vary and the percentage of gel added can also vary from about 5% to about 30%. The gel itself is either thermally conductive (like a stone countertop which feels cool to the touch) or phase changing (which stores and releases heat in a specific temperature range) which can both be used to either reduce or regulate temperature for a period of time until the temperatures equalize. You would find that the "hand feel" of most gel foams will be noticeably cooler than regular memory foam (not to the degree of a countertop though) but that depending on the percentage of gel in the mattress they will equalize over time with body temperature at which point the insulating properties of the foam will become dominant. Depending on the amount and type of gel the temperature regulating effect will last longer or shorter over the course of the night. It may be enough to help someone while they are going to sleep or with a greater percentage of gel it could last for a longer part of the night but in general the cooling benefits of gel tend to be somewhat temporary. The cell structure of the foam will also play a major role because gel added to foam that is less breathable and that has a less open cell structure will have little or very temporary benefits because there would be no air circulation to remove the heat it absorbs to the environment.

There are also other types of "non gel" memory foams that have been developed which have many of these same cooling or support properties as well but in the current market environment where every manufacturer is rushing to come out with a gel material to "keep up" with the interest Serta has created ... the gel memory foams with these properties can be easier to find and "differentiate". There is more about some of the different ways that can be used to "cool down" memory foam to help offset its tendency to sleep warmer than other foam materials in post #6 here .

There is also more about the many variables that can affect the sleeping temperature of a mattress in post #2 here .

So gel memory foams are an emerging subgroup of memory foam with similar properties and while they don't have long term results in real life to show yet ... it certainly appears that they have some benefits and some of the feedback on them shows some promise. Like all new materials though ... there is lots of hype and exaggeration about gel memory foams in general and they are similar to new generation, cooler, faster response, or more supportive memory foams of other types but there is also "some" substance to the claims. They can make a good choice ... especially in the top layers of a mattress where their temporary cooling properties can be more effective or in transition layers (underneath a softer layer) where their greater support properties can be beneficial.

Because gel is heavier than conventional memory foam ... adding gel can increase the density of the memory foam that uses it which can make it appear to be higher quality than the base foam before the gel is added. What this means is that the base memory foam before the gel is added may be low density/quality and then the gel can increase the density which makes it appear to be higher quality. In some cases though ... adding gel can actually lead to a more durable memory foam because there are some methods of adding gel which can strengthen the base memory foam it is added to. Overall though you can reasonably compare the gel memory foams to the same density of regular memory foam in terms of durability. Some of the different types of gel memory foams includes ...

1. Gel particulates or microbeads which are mixed into the memory foam itself. These are by far the most common type of gel memory foam in the market. The idea is that the gel particles or "beads" will stay under a person's body while the memory foam itself "displaces" which can make it more supportive. The particles can also create a more open cell structure which makes it more breathable. The downside to this type of gel memory foam is the risk that the gel particles, like other fillers that are used in memory foam, may actually weaken the cellular structure of the memory foam rather than strengthen it. In this case... the gel memory foam may be less durable than the original memory foam before the gel was added but this will also depend on the size of the particulates. Smaller particulates that are embedded into the cell wall of the memory foam and that have less tendency to migrate out of the foam will be less abrasive or harmful to the cell structure and have less effect on the durability of the memory foam than larger particles that are more inside the cells themselves and will separate from the foam more easily.

2. Some are an actual "pure gel" gel material (not mixed with memory foam) which is added in very thin layers on the surface. This is often a "swirl" or "just a touch" on top of memory foam. If it is very thin it is more "label copy" because while the gel may add some small degree of benefit ... the layers are too thin to take real advantage of the qualities of the gel material.

3. Some are pure gel materials which are poured into holes that have been punched into the base memory foam or into fabricated impressions in the memory foam. This allows for thicker "pieces" of actual gel (as opposed to beads) which can compress more deeply and respond better with weight. This would appear to be a more durable and effective use of the gel (as the "inserts" are thicker and react more independently from the memory foam) as long as the memory foam is also high quality but of course it is still a hybrid memory foam that uses less gel material than a pure gel layer.

4. One of the most effective methods of adding gel is actually pouring the memory foam and liquid gel together and in this case the gel becomes part of the structure of the memory foam itself rather than being more of a filler or addition. According to conversations I have had and some testing results ... this appears to strengthen the structure of the memory foam and can actually make it more durable rather than less and as I mentioned earlier, changes some of the properties of "pure" memory foam but this type of gel may also soften the foam so it is usually added in lower percentages so the gel itself may have less effect than gel added in higher percentages.

5. There are also versions which use thicker layers of pure gel which are laminated onto a layer of polyfoam or memory foam. These use more meaningful layers of gel where the gel itself can act as an actual layer rather than being infused into another foam and has more of the beneficial properties of the gel material itself rather than a combination of gel and memory foam. This is probably the best method to take fullest advantage of the thermal conductive and cooling properties of the gel itself but because the gel material is more expensive ... using it this way can also be more costly. This type of gel material is often firmer and is usually only suitable in thinner layers with other layers of softer materials underneath to modify its firmness.

6. All of these are different from the " buckling column gel " which is not a viscoelastic material and has completely different properties even though it also uses a version of thermoplastic gel as well.

In terms of durability they will be roughly comparable to "regular" memory foam of the same density ... but perhaps slightly less durable.

There will be some "shaking out" yet to happen over the coming years as time will tell how they will perform in real life over the longer term but for now ... to a large degree because of extensive advertising and hype and to some degree because of actual performance ... they are a popular choice. Post #2 here has more information and links to other posts and information about gel materials and cooling technologies for those that wish more detailed information.

So all in all ... gel memory foams are a variant of memory foam that can certainly have some slight cooling benefits (usually temporary when you are first going to sleep until temperatures equalize) and some support benefits and while they are not the answer to all mattress issues that so much of the advertising would have you believe, and there are many other alternative materials and combinations that have similar properties ... they are a legitimate material that in it's better versions can have some beneficial effects on the memory foam they are added to.

Your other two questions are much simpler and I'll answer them in the next post.

Phoenix

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Last edit: 30 Jan 2016 19:27 by Phoenix.

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27 Aug 2012 04:48 - 21 Oct 2015 16:42 #3 by Phoenix
Hi sleeperawake,

On to your other questions :)

advanced soy based dual Omalon foam - what is this?


Omalon is a high quality polyfoam produced by Carpenter.

Soy based foams (or eco foams or plant based foams or any of dozens of similar names) are somewhat of a misnomer. Polyurethane foams use two main chemicals in their manufacture one of which is a polyol and the other is an isocyanate. Both of these are petrochemicals. Plant based foam use various types of plant oils (soy, palm, castor, corn and others) to produce chemical similar to a polyol which is used to replace a small percentage (usually under 20% but occasionally more) of the petrochemical polyols in the manufacturing of polyurethane. It is a step in the right direction but these types of polyfoam are certainly not what I would call "green" and are still primarily petrochemcial based.

pre-crushed memory foam - does this do anything to the properties of the memory foam?


Precrushing foam opens up the "windows" in the foam's cell structure and can reduce the initial break in and softening period that a foam normally goes through in the first 90 days or so.

You said that some manufacturer "call" their foam latex, when it is really polyfoam. Is there a way to know if it is really latex?


Normally latex is correctly labeled (although it doesn't always say what type it is) but if you see things like "engineered latex" then I would be suspicious. The best way to know is to ask the manufacturer specific questions or buy from a manufacturer or outlet that you know will give you acurate information. The law tag will also list the ingredients although it lists them by weight so you won't be able to tell the thickness so this is not always a reliable way to know about a particular layer.

Do you know any good manufacturers in the Oklahoma City area?

Post #2 here includes some of the better options I know of and one of them is a member of this site which means I believe they have among the best quality and value in the country.

Phoenix

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Last edit: 21 Oct 2015 16:42 by Phoenix.

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31 Mar 2013 22:27 #4 by Cataldo
Phoenix

Which type of gel is used in the Ultimate Dreams 13" bed? What are your thoughts on the quality?

Thanks again!

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31 Mar 2013 22:48 #5 by Phoenix
Hi Cataldo,

My thoughts on gel foams are evolving as I have the chance to talk with some foam chemists and others and I am able to gather more information about the many variations or generations of gel memory foam that exist in the market.

As it currently stands .... I would probably put the better particulate gel memory foams (with smaller particles) as being roughly equivalent to their regular memory foam counterparts in terms of durability ... perhaps very slightly less. this would mean I would compare it in durability terms to 4 lb memory foam. The newer gel particulates have much smaller particles than the original ones which means that the particles are embedded in the foam struts (cell walls) rather than being inside the cell structure itself which according to people I have talked with improves the durabililty of the foam compared with larger particles which separate from the foam much more easily. It's rather difficult to get meaningful information about the gel foams from the foam manufacturers.

Their gel memory foam comes from one of the largest foam manufacturers in the US and I would put it among the better quality particulate gel memory foams ... but of course the real test with the entire group of gel memory foams is years down the road when real life experience catches up with theory.

Phoenix

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04 Apr 2013 11:26 #6 by Cataldo
Thanks again. It's only been a week with our UD 13" but so far we really like it.

Phoenix wrote: Hi Cataldo,

My thoughts on gel foams are evolving as I have the chance to talk with some foam chemists and others and I am able to gather more information about the many variations or generations of gel memory foam that exist in the market.

As it currently stands .... I would probably put the better particulate gel memory foams (with smaller particles) as being roughly equivalent to their regular memory foam counterparts in terms of durability ... perhaps very slightly less. this would mean I would compare it in durability terms to 4 lb memory foam. The newer gel particulates have much smaller particles than the original ones which means that the particles are embedded in the foam struts (cell walls) rather than being inside the cell structure itself which according to people I have talked with improves the durabililty of the foam compared with larger particles which separate from the foam much more easily. It's rather difficult to get meaningful information about the gel foams from the foam manufacturers.

Their gel memory foam comes from one of the largest foam manufacturers in the US and I would put it among the better quality particulate gel memory foams ... but of course the real test with the entire group of gel memory foams is years down the road when real life experience catches up with theory.

Phoenix

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05 May 2013 12:46 #7 by levander

Phoenix wrote: Hi sleeperawake,
1. Powdered gels or particulates which are mixed into the memory foam itself. The idea is that the gel particles or "beads" will stay under a person's body while the memory foam itself "displaces" which can make it more supportive. The particles can also create a more open cell structure which makes it more breathable and the gel itself is thermo conductive (like a stone countertop which feels cool to the touch) which is one method that can be used to reduce temperature. The downside to this type of gel memory foam is the risk that the gel particles, like other fillers that are used in memory foam, may actually weaken the cellular structure of the memory foam rather than strengthen it. In this case... the gel memory foam may be less durable than the original memory foam before the gel was added.


Phoenix, I'm thinking I may be a little over enthusiastic about what you say that I've bolded above.

I've run my hands over stone countertops on a mild day outside and the counter-tops were nice and chilly. But, I emailed Brooklyn Bedding and the only claim as to their gel foams and cooling they would make is that it sleeps "33% cooler than memory foam beds.

With that being Brooklyn Bedding's claim, I'm guess I shouldn't expect a gel foam topper to really be chilly, just not heat up nearly as much as a regular memory foam topper would?

You also mention durability in my quote above, but I see you've "evolved" your stance as to durability and particulate gel foams? (evolved, as per post #5 in this thread)

Brooklyn Bedding is your only recommendation for particulate gel foams in this thread: Link . And it's the only one I've found.

I'm definitely interested in getting as cool a sleeping surface as possible. If you know of a topper that would be cooler, I would love to hear it.

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05 May 2013 14:22 - 19 Jan 2016 21:12 #8 by Phoenix
Hi levander,

There are different types of gel and gel particles that react differently to heat. You can see the different types of "temperature regulating technologies in post #9 here and the end of post #4 here . If you have a solid gel material it would be much more heat conductive (like a marble countertop) than a memory foam which has gel of various types added to it but this type of gel is too firm to be used successfully in thicker layer or without some type of surface modification and is usually found in thinner layers over other types of foam. The type of gel added to other foams can vary and the percentage of gel added can also vary from about 5% to about 30%.

You would find that the "hand feel" of most gel foams will be noticeably cooler than regular memory foam (not to the degree of a countertop though) but that depending on the percentage of gel in the mattress they will equalize over time with body temperature at which point the insulating properties of the foam will become dominant. Depending on the amount and type of gel the temperature regulating effect will last longer or shorter over the course of the night. It may be enough to help someone while they are going to sleep or with a greater percentage of gel it could last for a longer part of the night. The cell structure of the foam will also play a major role because gel added to more closed cell foam will have little or very temporary benefits because there would be no air circulation to remove the heat it absorbs to the environment.

So as new generation gel foams reach the market (currently at 3rd generation) the information is evolving yes. As I mentioned earlier the size of the particulates and how easily they remain embedded in the foam will also make a difference in durability and larger particles will degrade the foam faster because they are larger than the cell walls but smaller particles will embed themselves in the cell walls of the memory foam and be less likely to migrate and abrade the cell walls and have less effect on durability. Most of the newer generation gel foams (either thermally conductive or phase change microparticles that encapsulate the gel) that use particles are moving towards smaller particles for this reason and the ones that Brooklyn Bedding uses (along with others as well) are good quality. I would also bear in mind that there are also advances being made in more open celled memory foam with better ventilating properties.

In very general terms ... a gel memory foam will be roughly equivalent in durability terms (possibly slightly less) with the same density memory foam with the exception of 1st generation foams which use larger particles (that migrate out of the foam more easily) which will be less durable.

It's pretty much impossible to quantify the specific degree of effect that a gel memory foam will have on temperature because the temperature regulating properties of a mattress as a whole will also depend on many other factors besides just the foam (see post #2 here and post #29 here ) and also depends on the person (where they are in the "oven to iceberg" range) and the exact composition of the foam which generally isn't information that any foam manufacturer will provide to the public so you are mostly dependent on the choices and descriptions of a manufacturer who will usually look at and test several gel foams made by different companies before choosing the one they decide will work best in their application and for their criteria to include in their mattresses.

Post #2 here has more information about the different types of gel foams and gel memory foams and as I connect with various "experts" such as foam chemists and new information or foam types comes to light or reaches the market I will add to it.

Select foam also sells gel memory foam toppers that are good quality and they are also in the list of better gel memory foam suppliers in post #4 here along with some of the other members of this site. NOTE ADDED: They are no longer a recommended member of this site ... see post #1 here ).

I'm definitely interested in getting as cool a sleeping surface as possible. If you know of a topper that would be cooler, I would love to hear it.


Latex and wool toppers would tend to be more ventilating and cooler than memory foam (gel or otherwise) over the course of the night for most people (assuming all the other factors are equal) and some types of more open cell polyfoam may as well (such as quilting foams used in the quilting of the cover) although they may not have the same "hand feel" in terms of temperature as gel memory foam or other types of gel foam materials.

Phoenix

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Last edit: 19 Jan 2016 21:12 by Phoenix.

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