Raman photostability of off-resonant gap-enhanced Raman tags
Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) nanoprobes show promising potential for biosensing and bioimaging applications due to advantageous features of ultrahigh sensitivity and specificity. However, very limited research has been reported on the SERS photostability of nanoprobes upon continuous laser irradiation, which is critical for high-speed and time-lapse microscopy. The core–shell off-resonant gap-enhanced Raman tags (GERTs) with built-in Raman reporters, excited at near-infrared (NIR) region but with a plasmon resonance at visible region, allow decoupling the plasmon resonance behaviors with the SERS performance and therefore show ultrahigh Raman photostability during continuous laser irradiation. In this work, we have synthesized five types of off-resonant GERTs with different embedded Raman reporters, numbers of shell layer, or nanoparticle shapes. Via thorough examination of time-resolved SERS trajectories and quantitative analysis of photobleaching behaviors, we have demonstrated that double metallic-shell GERTs embedded with 1,4-benzenedithiol molecules show the best photostability performance, to the best of our knowledge, among all SERS nanoprobes reported before, with a photobleaching time constant up to 4.8 × 105 under a laser power density of 4.7 × 105 W cm−2. Numerical calculations additionally support that the local plasmonic heating effect in fact can be greatly minimized using the off-resonance strategy. Moreover, double-shell BDT-GERTs are highly potential for high-speed and high-resolution Raman-based cell bioimaging.