The preparation and characterization of high-surface-area polymeric substrates suitable for the microcalorimetry of protein adsorption are described. High-surface-area polystyrene, poly(styrene- co -butyl methacrylate) and poly(styrene- co -allyl alcohol) were prepared by adsorbing polymer from solution onto fumed silica. Verification of adsorption of polystyrene by silica was determined by noting peak shifts of the surface silanol group in the infrared. The amount of polymer adsorbed was determined from adsorption isotherms. The minimum thickness of polystyrene required to mask silicon oxide properties was found to be that thickness at which contact angles became constant, about 35 A. Polymer densities were measured. Water contact angles on each polymer surface indicate that poly(styrene- co -allyl alcohol) has the surface most wettable by water. Polymer-water interfacial energies were estimated from pendant drop results and a harmonic mean equation along with contact angles. Two methods were used to estimate the polar and dispersion components of the three polymers. Both methods predicted polystyrene to have the highest interfacial energy against water, and one method predicted poly(styrene- co -allyl alcohol) to have the lowest. A Wilhelmy plate study verified the change in interfacial properties as a function of contact time with water. A study of the heats of adsorption of lysozyme by each substrate using a modified Tien-Calvet microcalorimeter demonstrated the suitability of the substrates for microcalorimetry. © 1996 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.