Combining 3-D plasmonic gold nanorod arrays with colloidal nanoparticles as a versatile concept for reliable, sensitive, and selective molecular detection by SERS†
The detection of molecules at an ultralow level by Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) has recently attracted enormous interest for various applications especially in biological, medical, and environmental fields. Despite the significant progress, SERS systems are still facing challenges for practical applications related to their sensitivity, reliability, and selectivity. To overcome these limitations, in this study, we have proposed a simple yet facile concept by combining 3-D anisotropic gold nanorod arrays with colloidal gold nanoparticles having different shapes for highly reliable, selective, and sensitive detection of some hazardous chemical and biological warfare agents in trace amounts through SERS. The gold nanorod arrays were created on the BK7 glass slides or silicon wafer surfaces via the oblique angle deposition (OAD) technique without using any template material or lithography technique and their surface densities were adjusted by manipulating the deposition angle (α). It is found that gold nanorod arrays fabricated at α = 10° exhibited the highest SERS enhancement in the absence of colloidal gold nanoparticles. Synergetic enhancement was obviously observed in SERS signals when combining gold nanorod arrays with colloidal gold nanoparticles having different shapes (i.e., spherical, rod, and cage). Due to their ability to produce localized surface plasmons (LSPs) in transverse and longitudinal directions, utilization of colloidal gold nanorods as a synergetic agent led to an increase in the enhancement factor by about tenfold compared to plain gold nanorod arrays. Moreover, we have tested our approach to detect some chemical and biological toxins namely dipicolinic acid (DIP), methyl parathion (MP), and diethyl phosphoramidate (DP). For all toxins, Raman spectra with high signal-to-noise ratios and reproducibility were successfully obtained over a broad concentration range (5 ppm–10 ppb). Our results suggest that the slightly tangled and closely-packed anisotropic gold nanorod arrays reinforced by the gold nanoparticles may serve as an ideal SERS substrate to detect any analyte in trace amounts.