Rationally designed substrates for SERS biosensing
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The large electromagnetic field enhancement provided by nanostructured noble metal surfaces forms the foundation for a series of enabling optical analytical techniques, such as surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), surface enhanced IR absorption spectroscopy (SEIRA), surface enhanced fluorescent microscopy (SEF), to name only a few. Critical sensing applications have, however, other substrate requirements than mere peak signal enhancement. The substrate needs to be reliable, provide reproducible signal enhancements, and be amenable to a combination with microfluidic chips or other integrated sensor platforms. These needs motivate the development of engineerable SERS substrate "chips" with defined near- and far-field responses. In this dissertation, two types of rationally designed SERS substrates - nanoparticle cluster arrays (NCAs) and SERS stamp - will be introduced and characterized. NCAs were fabricated through a newly developed template guided self-assembly fabrication approach, in which chemically synthesized nanoparticles are integrated into predefined patterns using a hybrid top-down/bottom-up approach. Since this method relies on chemically defined building blocks, it can overcome the resolution limit of conventional lithographical methods and facilitates higher structural complexity. NCAs sustain near-field interactions within individual clusters as well as between entire neighboring clusters and create a multi-scale cascaded E-field enhancement throughout the entire array. SERS stamps were generated using an oblique angle metal deposition on a lithographically defined piston. When mounted on a nanopositioning stage, the SERS stamps were enabled to contact biological surfaces with pristine nanostructured metal surfaces for a label-free spectroscopic characterization. The developed engineered substrates were applied and tested in critical sensing applications, including the ultratrace detection of explosive vapors, the rapid discrimination of bacterial pathogens, and the label-free monitoring of the enzymatic degradation of pericellular matrices of cancer cells.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University