Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) is a vibrational spectroscopic technique that utilizes metal surfaces to provide enhanced signals of several orders of magnitude. When molecules of interest are attached to designed metal nanoparticles, a SERS signal is attainable with single molecule detection limits. This provides an ultrasensitive means of detecting the presence of molecules. By using selective chemistries, metal nanoparticles can be functionalized to provide a unique signal upon analyte binding. Moreover, by using measurement techniques, such as, ratiometric received SERS spectra, such metal nanoparticles can be used to monitor dynamic processes in addition to static binding events. Accordingly, such nanoparticles can be used as nanosensors for a wide range of chemicals in fluid, gaseous and solid form, environmental sensors for pH, ion concentration, temperature, etc., and biological sensors for proteins, DNA, RNA, etc.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.