Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Journal of Biological Engineering

Publication Date



Background: Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) is a powerful light scattering technique that can be used for sensitive immunoassay development and cell labeling. A major obstacle to using SERS is the complexity of fabricating SERS probes since they require nanoscale characterization and optical uniformity. The light scattering response of SERS probes may also be modulated by the substrate used for SERS analysis. A typical SERS substrate such as quartz can be expensive. Polystyrene is a cheaper substrate option but can decrease the SERS response due to interfering Raman emission peaks and high background fluorescence. The goal of this research is to develop an optimized process for fabricating Raman-labeled nanoparticles for a SERS-based immunoassay on a polystyrene substrate.

Results: We have developed a method for fabricating SERS nanoparticle probes for use in a light scattering immunoassay on a polystyrene substrate. The light scattering profile of both spherical gold nanoparticle and gold nanorod SERS probes were characterized using Raman spectroscopy and optical absorbance spectroscopy. The effects of substrate interference and autofluorescence were reduced by selecting a Raman reporter with a strong light scattering response in a spectral region where interfering substrate emission peaks are minimized. Both spherical gold nanoparticles and gold nanorods SERS probes used in the immunoassay were detected at labeling concentrations in the low pM range. This analytical sensitivity falls within the typical dynamic range for direct labeling of cell-surface biomarkers using SERS probes.

Conclusion: SERS nanoparticle probes were fabricated to produce a strong light scattering signal despite substrate interference. The optical extinction and inelastic light scattering of these probes was detected by optical absorbance spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy, respectively. This immunoassay demonstrates the feasibility of analyzing strongly enhanced Raman signals on polystyrene, which is an inexpensive yet non-ideal Raman substrate. The assay sensitivity, which is in the low pM range, suggests that these SERS probe particles could be used for Raman labeling of cell or tissue samples in a polystyrene tissue culture plate. With continued development, this approach could be used for direct labeling of multiple cell surface biomarkers on strongly interfering substrate platforms.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.