Polystyrene surfaces are often corona-discharge or plasma treated to oxidize the surface, which enhances the wettability. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), which requires time and an ultra-high vacuum, is generally used to measure this surface oxidation. A rapid, simple method for measuring polystyrene surface oxidation is described. The surface is soaked in a solution of Azure A dye, which adsorbs only to oxidized sites on the polystyrene. The excess dye is flushed away and the bound dye is desorbed with a detergent; an absorbance measurement at 635 nm is used to determine the quantity of desorbed dye. This value correlates with the polystyrene surface oxygen concentration and gives r2 = 0.93.
M. Bryhan, E. C. Onyiriuka, L. S. Hersh, and W. Hertl, "Rapid Assay for Polystyrene Surface Oxidation," Appl. Spectrosc. 47, 1609-1611 (1993)