In this study, gamma ray induced gelation of aqueous solutions of poly(ethylene oxide), (PEO) with 73.300 Da average molecular weight has been studied. Percent of conversion of polymer into gel as well as swelling behavior were investigated gravimetrically. The effect of the dose rate on these properties was studied. Within the dose rate range studied. it is observed that low dose rate irradiation favors chain scission and although the dominant effect is still crosslinking, %gelation at a given dose decreases. Water vapor permeability (Wvp) of PEO hydrogels has been studied with regard to crosslink density changes and temperature. The water vapor permeability of hydrogels obtained at high dose rate was found to be lower than those obtained at low dose rate which was related to higher crosslink density achieved under higher dose rate irradiations. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.