Abstract To investigate the potential of some cellulose graft copolymers, especially with respect to the structural aspects of graft copolymer chains as new membrane materials, sorption studies of Cu 2+ ions from aqueous solution of CuSO 4 have been studied. Grafting improves metal ion sorption behaviour of cellulose. A method of synthesis for grafting copolymers has a tremendous effect on sorption behaviour. For identical graft levels graft copolymers synthesized by gamma radiation initiation sorb three times more ions as compared to the graft copolymers initially synthesized with the persulphate redox system. Copolymers having binary monomer units grafted sorb less than those which have only poly (Sty) grafted. Some reasons have been put forth to account for the sorption behaviour of graft copolymers.