Plasmonic core–shell nanoparticles for SERS detection of the pesticide thiram: size- and shape-dependent Raman enhancement†
We systematically investigated the size- and shape-dependent SERS activities of plasmonic core–shell nanoparticles towards detection of the pesticide thiram. Monodisperse Au@Ag nanocubes (NCs) and Au@Ag nanocuboids (NBs) were synthesized and their Ag shell thickness was precisely adjusted from ∼1 nm to ∼16 nm. All these nanoparticles were used as SERS substrates for thiram detection, and the Raman intensities with three different lasers (514 nm, 633 nm and 782 nm) were recorded and compared. Our results clearly show that: (1) the excitation wavelength discriminated particle shapes regardless of particle sizes, and the maximized Raman enhancement was observed when the excitation wavelength approaches the SERS peak (provided there is significant local electric field confinement on the plasmonic nanostructures at that wavelength); (2) at the optimized laser wavelength, the maximum Raman enhancement was achieved at a certain threshold of particle size (or silver coating thickness). By exciting particles at their optimized sizes with the corresponding optimized laser wavelengths, we achieved a detection limit of roughly around 100 pM and 80 pM for NCs and NBs, respectively.