Easy-to-Fabricate, Cost-Effective, and Stable Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) substrates


Vanderbilt researchers have developed a Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) substrate with demonstrated signal amplification over one order of magnitude greater than commercially available SERS substrates. Very significantly, the newly developed substrates utilize a simple inexpensive imprinting process on nanoporous gold and are thus amenable for high-volume production.

Challenges in SERS

• SERS is a surface-sensitive technique that amplifies the Raman scattering signal from adsorbed molecules on a substrate enabling precise identification of those molecules

• Current SERS technology enables significant amplification only in specific locations called hotspots scattered at random on the substrate, making reliable detection of molecules difficult

• Because of their complex fabrication techniques, most SERS substrates are very expensive, which coupled with their inefficiency, provides a significant barrier to commercialization

Technology Description

In Raman Spectroscopy, surface-adsorbed molecules are exposed to light and the energy difference between incident and Raman-scattered photons is utilizied to characterize the adsorbed molecules. Typically the signal generated is fairly weak; SERS was developed to use substrates to amplify the Raman signal by as much as 1011 times, allowing for the detection of even single molecules. The adoption of this powerful technique has been impaired by the unavailability of inexpensive, reproducible substrates on a commercial basis. The present technology provides a solution to this impediment. An inexpensive imprinting process is used to create sub-wavelength, 2D gratings patterned into nanoporous gold. This design has demonstrated Raman scattering amplification that is more than one order of magnitude greater than commercially available SERS substrates.

Unique Features and Competitive Advantages

• Lightweight, Portable, Storable, Sterilizable and Inexpensive

• This novel SERS substrate achieves signal amplification that is more than 100 times greater than similar commercially available product

• The signal generated by this technique is uniform across the substrate

• The signals generated by this technique are reliably reproducible

• Substrate is fabricated using simple, scalable, and inexpensive materials and methods

Intellectual Property and Development Status 

• Published PCT (WO/2012/039764) application; Pending US, EPO and Canada national applications

Lab home Page with list of publications

• Results of comparative tests conducted using the SERS substrates and commercially available Klarite substrates have been published (Y. Jiao, et al., “Patterned nanoporous gold as an effective SERS template,” Nanotechnol. 22, 295302, 2011.)

SERS spectra of benzenethiol molecules adsorbed on NPG (blue), Klarite® commercial SERS substrate (red), and 2D P-NPG SERS substrate with 650 nm pitch and air fill fraction of 30% (black). The spectra are offset for ease of comparison. The 2D P-NPG SERS substrate exhibits one-order-of-magnitude higher SERS enhancement compared to the Klarite® substrate


Sharon WeissYang JiaoJudson RyckmanPeter CiesielskiGannon Kane Jennings
Licensing manager: 
Ashok Choudhury

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