Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) is currently experiencing a renaissance in its development driven by the remarkable discovery of single molecule SERS (SMSERS) and the explosion of interest in nanophotonics and plasmonics. Because excitation of the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) of a nanostructured surface or nanoparticle lies at the heart of SERS, it is important to control all of the factors influencing the LSPR in order to maximize signal strength and ensure reproducibility. These factors include material, size, shape, interparticle spacing, and dielectric environment. All of these factors must be carefully controlled to ensure that the incident laser light maximally excites the LSPR in a reproducible manner. This article describes the use of nanosphere lithography for the fabrication of highly reproducible and robust SERS substrates for both fundamental studies and applications. Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is introduced as a novel fabrication method for dielectric spacers to study the SERS distance dependence and control the nanoscale dielectric environment. Wavelength scanned SER excitation spectroscopy (WS SERES) measurements show that enhancement factors 108 are obtainable from NSL-fabricated surfaces and provide new insight into the electromagnetic-field enhancement mechanism. Tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) is an extremely promising new development to improve the generality and information content of SERS. A 2D correlation analysis is applied to SMSERS data. Finally, the first in vivo SERS glucose sensing study is presented.
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