All our research is built on the foundation of using synthetic polymer chemistry to solve problems and create new materials. We are currently focused on making glycopolymer mimics for blood-compatible polymers, making shape memory polymer foams, and making biocompatible polymer gels and networks.

Glycopolymer Mimics and Shape Memory Polymer Foams

Platelets adhering to a polyurethane surface

One major focus of our research is investigating blood compatible polymers that are inspired by the naturally occurring anticoagulant molecule, heparin.  Our polymers are based on polyureas with N-alkyl pendent sugar groups including mannose, glucose, lactose, and glucosamine. We have found that the blood compatibility of the polymers is dependent upon factors including the nature of the sugar, the flexibility of the polymer backbone, and the degree of sulfation of the sugar ring. 

A shape memory polymer foam made in our lab.


  • Emily Dalton, Qinyuan Chai, Molly W. Shaw, Tucker J. McKenzie, Eric S. Mullins, and Neil Ayres (2019) Hydrogel-coated polyurethane/urea shape memory polymer foams Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry, 57 1389-1395

  • Qinyuan Chai, Yongshun Huang, Terrence Kirley, and Neil Ayres (2017) Shape memory polymer foams prepared from a heparin-inspired polyurethane/urea 8, 5039-5048

  • Yongshun Huang, Maureen A. Shaw, Mary R. Warmin, Eric S. Mullins and Neil Ayres (2016) Blood compatibility of heparin inspired, lactose containing, polyureas depends on the chemistry of the polymer backbone Polymer Chemistry 7 3897-3905

  • Qinyuan Chai, Yongshun Huang and Neil Ayres (2015) Shape memory biomaterials prepared from polyurethane/ureas containing sulfated glucose Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry 53(19) 2252-2257 (Spotlight Article)

  • Yongshun Huang, Maureen A. Shaw, Eric S. Mullins, Terence L. Kirley, and Neil Ayres (2014) Synthesis and Anticoagulant Activity of Polyureas Containing Sulfated Carbohydrates Biomacromolecules 15(12) 4455-4466

  • Yongshun Huang, Leeanne Taylor, Xiaoping Chen, and Neil Ayres (2013) Synthesis of a polyurea from a glucose or mannose containing N-alkyl urea peptoid oligomer Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry 51(24) 5230-5238

  • Taylor L., Chen X., Ayres N. (2014) Synthesis of a glycosaminoglycan polymer mimetic using an N-alkyl-N,N-linked urea oligomer containing glucose pendant groups Polymer International 63 127-135

Three supramolecular polymer organogels prepared in our lab


We have a growing interest in polymer networks, including hydrogels, organogels, those made by permanent covalent crosslinks and those made using supramolecular crosslinks. In newer work we have been investigating how the physical properties of hydrogels and polymer networks can be changed based on the chemistry of the polymers.


  • M. Mario Perera and Neil Ayres (2017) Gelatin based dynamic hydrogels via thiol-norbornene reactions Polymer Chemistry 8 6741-6749

  • Yongshun Huang, Qinyuan Chai, Mary R. Warmin, and Neil Ayres (2016) Lactose-containing hydrogels for enzyme stabilization Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry 2507-2514

  • Xinjun Yu, Xiaoping Chen, Qinyuan Chai and Neil Ayres (2016) Synthesis of polymer organogelators using hydrogen bonding as physical cross-links Colloid and Polymer Science 294 (1) 59-68

  • Xiaoping Chen, Pengzhan Fei, Kevin A Cavicchi, WenwenYang, and Neil Ayres (2014) The poor solubility of ureidopyrimidone can be used to form gels of low molecular weight N-alkyl urea oligomers in organic solvents Colloid and Polymer Science 292 (2) 477-484

  • Chen X., Ding K., Ayres N. (2011) Investigation into fiber formation in N-alkyl urea peptoid oligomers and the synthesis of a water-soluble PEG/N-alkyl urea peptoid oligomer conjugate Polymer Chemistry 2 2635-2642