Objective assessment of SERS thin films: comparison of silver on copper via galvanic displacement with commercially available fabricated substrates†
Many studies report the development of new thin films for surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS). However, the assessment of these surfaces in terms of their reproducibility for SERS is often subjective and whilst many spectra could and indeed should be reported, very few repeat measurements are typically used. Here, the performance of three SERS thin film substrates is assessed objectively using both univariate and novel multivariate methods. The silver on copper substrate (SoC) was synthesised in-house via galvanic displacement, whilst the other two substrates Klarite and QSERS are commercially available. The reproducibility of these substrates was assessed using rhodamine 6G (R6G) as a probe analyte and seven common vibrational bands that were observed in all R6G spectra were evaluated. In order to be as objective as possible a total of seven different data analysis methods were used to evaluate the surfaces revealing that overall the SoC substrate demonstrates much greater reproducibility when compared to the commercial substrates. Finally, through the collection of large datasets containing 6400 spectra per single substrate we also provide guidelines as to the typical number of spectra that should be collected in order to assess a substrate's performance objectively, and we conclude that this must be a minimum of 180 spectra collected randomly from across the region of interest.