We review the synthesis and application of polymers produced from hydroxyethyl acrylate (HEA) and hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA). Since the first reports in the 1960's on the use of HEMA to produce hydrogels, HEA and HEMA have been extensively used to generate a variety of polymeric architectures and nanostructured materials. In this review, we cover the various conditions of polymerization (monomer purification, solvent, polymer characterization and temperatures), and we specifically look at the use of living radical polymerization to generate well-defined polymers. We then focus on the materials obtained from HEMA and HEA, by considering micelles and nanoparticles, polymeric architectures, hybrid structures and gels.
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