Maleic anhydride grafted polyethylene (maleated polyethylene)/clay nanocomposites were prepared by simple melt compounding. The exfoliation and intercalation behaviors depended on the hydrophilicity of polyethylene grafted with maleic anhydride and the chain length of organic modifier in the clay. When the number of methylene groups in alkylamine (organic modifier) was larger than 16, the exfoliated nanocomposite was obtained, and the maleic anhydride grafting level was higher than about 0.1 wt% for the exfoliated nanocomposite with the clay modified with dimethyl dihydrogenated tallow ammonium ion or octadecylammonium ion. The pure LLDPE showed only the intercalation, which does not depend on the initial spacing between clay layers. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.