The characterisation of a novel amphiphilic material, Alg-C4, produced from butanol linked by esterification to alginate is presented. The novel derivative retains the gelling and non-toxic properties of native alginate. FTIR spectra of Alg-C4 contained the characteristic hydroxyl and carboxyl bands, but also featured additional peaks at 1736 and 1134 cm(-1), indicating the presence of ester bonds. NMR studies showed the presence of butyl groups. The endothermic peak and exothermic peak present in the DSC thermogram of native alginate were also apparent in the Alg-C4 thermogram, but had shifted to lower temperatures (from 106 to 87 degrees C and from 254 to 247 degrees C, respectively). In addition, the exothermic peak was significantly reduced for Alg-C4 (5 mW compared to 20 mW in native alginate). Scanning electron microscopy was used to examine surface topography. The native alginate beads appeared smooth while Alg-C4 beads had a different, rougher appearance. Using circular dichroism it was found that the ratio of mannuronic to guluronic residues in the Alg-C4 was markedly increased compared to the native alginate (1.33 to 2.47), suggesting the preferential esterification of butanol to the guluronic residues. Exposure of ovarian granulosa cells in vitro to the Alg-C4 material demonstrated that granulosa cell viability (MTT test) was unchanged when compared to native alginate, which is regarded as non-toxic. The novel material is very stable, giving identical FTIR, DSC and gelling performance after 12 months storage at temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees C. The data support the successful preparation of a stable modified alginate with characteristic hydrophilic properties and, in addition, a novel hydrophobic character.