Radiation induced grafted polyacrylic acid (PAA), polymethacrylic acid (PMAA), polyacrylamide (PAAm), poly N,N-dimethyl acrylamide (PNDAAm) and poly 1-vinyl-2 pyrrolidone (PVP) on ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) were characterised by DSC, FTIR and SEM analysis. While the effect of irradiation on pure UHMWPE was found to increase crystallinity and cause higher enthalpy of crystallisation, grafted UHMWPE powders showed lower crystallinity and enthalpy of crystallisation. In all grafted UHMWPE there existed secondary transitions corresponding to grafting polymers in the first run of DSC above 60 degreesC and they became clearer at a higher grafting level. In the second run of DSC some Tg values appeared to shift to higher temperatures while some were not detected. FTIR analysis indicated the presence of water-soluble polymers in the grafted UHMWPE. The characteristic peaks of water-soluble polymers became sharper in the grafted UHMWPE. SEM analysis revealed that the grafting occurs both on fiber and microparticles of UHMWPE while flowing characteristic of powder is retained. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.