An international team of researchers led by engineers at the University at Buffalo has developed a nanotechnology that promises to make surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), a highly accurate but very expensive sensing technique, simpler and cheaper.
SERS was discovered in the 1970s and is prized for the accuracy with which it can identify chemical and biological molecules. SERS involves using powerful lasers to scatter light off molecules in a way that can be measured to learn about those molecules. Substrates help to intensify this scattered light, making it easier to read, but most substrates are only useful for a narrow frequency of light, meaning a complete analysis can require the use of several different substrates. Substrates are relatively expensive, hard to produce, and are consumed upon use, making SERS testing cost- and time-intensive.
However, the researchers have developed a new universal substrate for SERS. The new substrate, composed of a thin film of silver or aluminum and a layer of silica or alumina, can trap a wide range of wavelengths so that only one substrate is required for a test. This could dramatically lower costs and greatly increase the possible applications for SERS in areas as diverse as medical testing, chemical weapons detection, and detecting forged artwork.
From University at Buffalo News
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