Ultra-high SERS detection of consumable coloring agents using plasmonic gold nanostars with high aspect-ratio spikes†
Solution-based SERS detection by using a portable Raman instrument has emerged as an important tool due to its simplicity, and flexibility for rapid and on-site screening of analyte molecules. However, this method has several shortcomings, including poor sensitivity especially for weak-affinity analyte molecules, where there is no close contact between the plasmonic metal surface and analyte molecule. Examples of weak-affinity molecules include pigment molecules that are commonly used as a consumable coloring agent, such as allura red (AR), and sunset yellow (SY). As high consumption of colorant agents has been shown to cause adverse effects on human health, there is a strong need to develop a simple and practical sensing system with high sensitivity for these agents. Here we present a novel, highly sensitive solution-based SERS detection method for AR, and SY by using CTAC capped gold nanostars (GNS) having different aspect ratios (GNS-2, GNS-4, and GNS-5) without utilizing any aggregating agents which can enhance SERS signal however it reduces batch to batch reproducibility. The influence of the aspect ratio of GNS on SERS properties was investigated. We have achieved a limit of detection (LOD) of AR and SY as low as 0.5 and 1 ppb, respectively by using GNS-5 with the advantages of minimal sample preparation by just mixing the analyte solution into a well plate containing GNS solution. In addition, excellent colloidal stability and reproducibility have further enhanced the applicability in real-world samples. Overall, our results evidence that the solution-based SERS detection platform using high aspect-ratio GNS can be applied for practical application to detect pigment molecules in real samples with satisfactory results.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 150th Anniversary Collection: Raman Spectroscopy and SERS