In differential topology, an exotic sphere is a differentiable manifold M that is homeomorphic but not diffeomorphic to the standard Euclidean n-sphere. That is, M is a sphere from the point of view of all its topological properties, but carrying a smooth structure that is not the familiar one (hence the name "exotic").
are described separately in the paper (Kervaire & Milnor 1963), which was influential in the development of surgery theory. In fact, these calculations can be formulated in a modern language in terms of the surgery exact sequence as indicated here.
By computations of stable homotopy groups of spheres, Wang & Xu (2017) proves that the sphere S61 has a unique smooth structure, and it is the last odd dimensional one – the only ones are S1, S3, S5, and S61.
If M is a piecewise linear manifold then the problem of finding the compatible smooth structures on M depends on knowledge of the groups Γk = Θk. More precisely, the obstructions to the existence of any smooth structure lie in the groups Hk+1(M, Γk) for various values of k, while if such a smooth structure exists then all such smooth structures can be classified using the groups Hk(M, Γk). In particular the groups Γk vanish if k < 7, so all PL manifolds of dimension at most 7 have a smooth structure, which is essentially unique if the manifold has dimension at most 6.
In 4 dimensions it is not known whether there are any exotic smooth structures on the 4-sphere. The statement that they do not exist is known as the "smooth Poincaré conjecture", and is discussed by Michael Freedman, Robert Gompf, and Scott Morrison et al. (2010) who say that it is believed to be false.
Some candidates proposed for exotic 4-spheres are the Cappell–Shaneson spheres (Sylvain Cappell and Julius Shaneson (1976)) and those derived by Gluck twists (Gluck 1962). Gluck twist spheres are constructed by cutting out a tubular neighborhood of a 2-sphere S in S4 and gluing it back in using a diffeomorphism of its boundary S2×S1. The result is always homeomorphic to S4. Many cases over the years were ruled out as possible counterexamples to the smooth 4 dimensional Poincaré conjecture. For example, Cameron Gordon (1976), José Montesinos (1983), Steven P. Plotnick (1984), Gompf (1991), Habiro, Marumoto & Yamada (2000), Selman Akbulut (2010), Gompf (2010), Kim & Yamada (2017).