Surface and catalytic properties of Cu-Ce-O composite materials prepared by solution combustion method have been investigated. The materials are characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), temperature programmed reduction (TPR) and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy (EPR). The results of EPR and TPR show finely dispersed Cu2+ species on ceria matrix with low copper content. The Cu2+ species exists in the form of dimers and clusters which are not evident in XRD. In addition CuO is also present as small clusters which grow to larger size at higher Cu content. There is no evidence of CuO forming a solid solution with fluorite CeO2 in combustion method. The Cu2+ species mostly appear on surface rather than in the bulk. Hydrogen peroxide decomposition kinetics has been carried out on Cu-Ce-O composite materials to investigate the effect of crystalline and well-dispersed copper oxide phases on CeO2. From kinetic results, the catalyst materials can be grouped into highly dispersed as well as crystalline CuO phases present on CeO2 matrix. Two parallel compensating lines for dispersed and crystalline CuO phases on CeO2 are observed in ln A versus Ea plot indicating the compensation effect in H2O2 decomposition. This observation is consistent with XRD and EPR results. © 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.