Stimuli responsive cross-linked hydrogels are of great interest for applications in diverse fields such as sensors and biomaterials. In this study, we investigate polymer composites filled with cellulose fillers. The celluloses used in making the composites were a microcrystalline cellulose of commercial grade and cellulose nano-whiskers obtained through acid hydrolysis of microcrystalline cellulose. The filler concentration was varied and corresponding physical, mechanical and electro-mechanical characterization was carried out. The electro-mechanical properties were determined using a quasi-static method. The fillers not only enhance the mechanical properties of the composite by providing better reinforcement but also provide a quantitative electric potential in the composite. The measurements reveal that the polymer composites prepared from two different cellulose fillers possess a quantitative electric potential which can be utilized in biomedical applications. It is argued that the mechanism behind the quantitative electric potential in the composites is due to streaming potentials arising due to electrical double layer formation. © 2015 IOP Publishing Ltd.