Optimizing the SERS enhancement of a facile gold nanostar immobilized paper-based SERS substrate

RSC Adv, 2017, 7, pp 16264-16272

Shuai Hea , Jefri Chuaa, Eddie Khay Ming Tan and James Chen Yong Kah

While surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) is a useful technique for the rapid and sensitive detection of biochemical compounds, conventional SERS chips suffer from high cost, complicated fabrication, inefficient sample collection processes and being not biocompatible. Here, we developed a facile, low-cost and highly sensitive gold nanostar (AuNS) immobilized paper-based SERS substrate that can be easily prepared in any laboratory. We performed studies on the paper materials, immobilization strategies, and SERS acquisition conditions to optimize the SERS enhancement and demonstrated that an optimized SERS signal was obtained from a dry substrate and wet analyte configuration suitable for rapid point-of-care detection. Using crystal violet (CV) as the Raman probe molecule, the optimized SERS substrate was prepared by having multiple drops of ∼100 pM of sodium citrate-treated colloidal AuNS on common laboratory filter paper before acquiring SERS spectra of CV freshly dripped onto the pre-dried AuNS-filter paper substrate. The optimized AuNS-filter paper substrate exhibited a SERS enhancement factor higher than that of two commercial Au/Ag-based SERS chips, with a detection limit of 1 nM CV and a SERS enhancement factor of up to 1.2 × 107. Such an optimized dry substrate and wet analyte configuration meant that the paper-based SERS substrate could be stored before use and Raman acquisition could be performed immediately without the need for the sample to dry. This makes the AuNS-filter paper substrate a simple and low-cost tool for trace level detection of biochemical species in a rapid, sensitive and non-destructive manner.