A common approach to investigate chemical interactions at the polymer/metal oxide interface is by monitoring ultrathin polymer films onto a metal oxide substrate by a variety of surface analysis techniques. The deposition of this nanometer-thin overlayer is frequently carried out by reactive adsorption from dilute polymer solutions. However, the influence of the solvent on the metal oxide chemistry is seldom taken into account in interface studies. The overall amount of available adsorption sites on the metal oxide surface might decrease due to competing adsorption of the solvent and the polymer adsorbate. Therefore, in this work, the adsorption of a common organic solvent (methanol) onto a physical vapor-deposited aluminum oxide surface is monitored in situ by an integrated attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy in the Kretschmann geometry and odd random phase multisine electrochemical impedance spectroscopy system. It is shown that methanol immediately physisorbs onto the aluminum oxide surface and replaces the initial adventitious carbon layer. This process is followed by methanol chemisorbing onto the oxide surface to form methoxide species at the liquid/solid interface. Additionally, chemisorption is validated ex situ by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.
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