Infrared Study of the Kinetics and Mechanism of Adsorption of Acrylic Polymers on Alumina Surfaces

In this paper, we studied the kinetics of the adsorption of poly(methyl methacrylate), PMMA, onto native aluminum oxide surfaces by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and reflection−absorption infrared spectroscopy, with the intent of tracking the various changes observed in the infrared spectrum of the adsorbed polymer layer as a function of adsorption time. Specifically, we utilized the relative changes in the absorption bands of the carbonyl, carboxylic acid, and carboxylate groups to determine the sequence of events that culminate in the formation of bonds between carboxylate groups on hydrolyzed PMMA and specific sites on the aluminum oxide surface. We have shown that the adsorption process involves the hydrolysis of a fraction of the methoxy groups of the PMMA to generate COOH groups. Unlike previous assumptions, the formation of COOH groups on the PMMA chains does not constitute a sufficient condition for the actual chemisorption of the polymer chains onto the metal oxide surface. To promote bonding, the acid groups must undergo dissociation to form the carboxylate groups, followed subsequently by actual bond formation, that is, active anchoring, on the surface. This process is mediated by the aluminum oxide sites on the surface in the presence of water. Hence, the adsorption process occurs via a two-step mechanism, in which the first step, that is, the hydrolysis step, is a necessary but insufficient condition and the second step, that is, the anchoring step, is largely dependent on the type of interfacial chemistry possible for a particular polymer−metal oxide surface, the polymer conformation, the molecular weight, and the flexibility of the adsorbing molecules.