Fabrication of a self-assembled and flexible SERS nanosensor for explosive detection at parts-per-quadrillion levels from fingerprints†
Apart from high sensitivity and selectivity of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS)-based trace explosive detection, efficient sampling of explosive residue from real world surfaces is very important for homeland security applications. Herein, we demonstrate an entirely new SERS nanosensor fabrication approach. The SERS nanosensor was prepared by self-assembling chemically synthesized gold triangular nanoprisms (Au TNPs), which we show display strong electromagnetic field enhancements at the sharp tips and edges, onto a pressure-sensitive flexible adhesive film. Our SERS nanosensor provides excellent SERS activity (enhancement factor = ∼6.0 × 106) and limit of detection (as low as 56 parts-per-quadrillions) with high selectivity by chemometric analyses among three commonly military high explosives (TNT, RDX, and PETN). Furthermore, the SERS nanosensors present excellent reproducibility (<4.0% relative standard deviation at 1.0 μM concentration) and unprecedentedly high stability with a “shelf life” of at least 5 months. Finally, TNT and PETN were analyzed and quantified by transferring solid explosive residues from fingerprints left on solid surfaces to the SERS nanosensor. Taken together, the demonstrated sensitivity, selectivity, and reliability of the measurements as well as with the excellent shelf life of our SERS nanosensors obviate the need for complicated sample processing steps required for other analytical techniques, and thus these nanosensors have tremendous potential not only in the field of measurement science but also for homeland security applications to combat acts of terror and military threats.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Analytical Nanoscience