This work describes the synthesis of hydrogels of cellulose acetate (AC), with a nominal degree of substitution DS = 2.5, cross-linked with 3,3’,4,4’ benzophenonetetracarboxylic dianhydride (BTDA). The raw materials were characterized by thermal analysis (TG/DTG) and by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). DS of cellulose acetate was determined by titration with a known amount of standard NaOH solution. Hydrogels of BTDA were synthesized with 0.5, 0.75 and 1.0 mol of BTDA/mol of AC. FTIR proved to be a suitable method to monitor the course of reactions and the progress of purification. UV-vis spectroscopy and analysis confirmed the esterification of the free hydroxyl groups. Surface modification of AC structure after the cross-linking reaction was analyzed by Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and density and porosity of the hydrogels were determined by BET. The influence of the concentration of dianhydride on the time necessary for formation of the gel was investigated. The influence from the increase in the degree of cross-linking on the thermal behavior of the material was also documented. Water absorption isotherms were obtained for hydrogels with different reticulating agents and reticulation degrees at different temperatures. The Arrhenius equation was used to determine the diffusion coefficient of the different hydrogels at distinct temperatures and the threshold energy for the swelling process. The enthalpy of mixture was determined through the measurement of the maximum quantity of water absorbed at equilibrium at different temperatures, with the Gibbs/Helmholtz equation.