Radiation crosslinked acrylamide/maleic acid (AAm/MA) copolymers were prepared by gamma-irradiation. They were used in experiments on swelling, diffusion, and immobilization of yeast cells (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) for the production of ethyl alcohol. AAm/MA hydrogels containing different amount of MA, irradiated at different doses, were used for swelling and diffusion studies. The parameters of swelling, diffusional exponents, network constants, diffusion coefficients and percent porosity of the hydrogel/penetrant systems were calculated and evaluated. Yeast cells were immobilized on to the hydrogels by adsorption during multiplication, and ethyl alcohol production by the hydrogels was investigated. Swelling of AAm/MA increased with increase in MA content. Ethyl alcohol production also increased with increasing MA in the hydrogels but decreased with an increase of irradiation dose. (C) 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.