Electrochemical atomic force microscopy (EC-AFM) experiments, including simultaneous linear polarization resistance (LPR) tests and in situ AFM imaging, under a CO2 atmosphere, were performed to investigate the adsorption characteristics and inhibition effects of a tetradecyldimethylbenzylammonium corrosion inhibitor model compound. When the inhibitor bulk concentration was at 0.5 critical micelle concentration (CMC), in situ AFM results indicated nonuniform tilted monolayer formation on the mica surface and EC-AFM results indicated partial corrosion of the UNS G10180 steel surface. At 2 CMC, a uniform tilted bilayer or perpendicular monolayer was detected on mica, and corrosion with UNS G10180 steel was uniformly retarded. Consistently, simultaneous LPR tests showed that corrosion rates decreased as the inhibitor concentration increased until it reached the surface saturation value (1 and 2 CMC). Molecular simulations have been performed to study the formation of the inhibitor layer and its molecular-level structure. Simulation results showed that at the initiation of the adsorption process, islands of adsorbed inhibitor molecules appear on the surface. These islands grow and coalesce to become a complete self-assembled layer.

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