The in situ rheological behavior across the gelation threshold has been investigated for an affine network of a completely charged cationic monomer (3-acrylamidopropyl)-trimethyl ammonium chloride (APTMAC1) when it is crosslinked with a neutral crosslinker (N,N'-methylenebisacrylamide) to form a fully charged novel cationic hydrogel. The elastic moduli (G) near the gel point (during the crosslinking or 'curing' process) show a power law dependence of the form G'(t)=epsilon(z) where epsilon=((t-t(c))/t(c)) is the distance from the gel point (t(c)). The critical exponent, z, for the hydrogel series investigated is estimated to be 1.5, slightly lower than the predictions based on percolation theory (z similar to 1.7-1.9). From the equilibrium (after the curing process) rheological measurements of a series of samples, it is inferred that there is a critical crosslinker mole percent (X,) with respect to the monomer concentration, required to form a well-defined three-dimensional network with a solid-like behavior. The value of this X-c is found to be between 0.5 and 1%. The theoretically predicted value of X-c using the percolation theory (for the percolation of crosslinks, G(0)(X) proportional to [vertical bar X-X-c vertical bar/X-c](z)) and the exponent estimated from the in situ measurements (z = 1.5), is X-c similar to 0.6, which is in good agreement with the experiments. The results may have applicability in translating from bulk systems to the nanoscale in hydrogel design. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All tights reserved.