Amorphous alumina layers are deposited on a single crystal Si substrate by a e-gun evaporation technique. These films are then thermally annealed in oxygen to be crystallized and, further, irradiated with an excimer laser beam. At each stage of the film preparation, an x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis is performed at the film surface and in depth, upon ion beam grinding. Results give evidence for the formation of an aluminosilicate upon thermal annealing of the film in oxygen. At the surface itself, this compound is observed to decompose upon excimer laser irradiation at energy densities exceeding 1.75 J/cm2, giving rise to free Si atoms and SiO2, however with complete disappearance of Al atoms. Model photochemical reactions are proposed to explain such transformations. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.