Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) is a powerful technique that yields fingerprint vibrational information with ultra-high sensitivity. However, only roughened Ag, Au and Cu surfaces can generate strong SERS effect. The lack of materials and morphology generality has severely limited the breadth of SERS practical applications on surface science, electrochemistry and catalysis.
Shell-isolated nanoparticle-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SHINERS) was therefore invented to break the long-standing limitation of SERS. In SHINERS, Au@SiO2 core-shell nanoparticles were rationally designed. The gold core acts as plasmonic antenna and encapsulated by an ultra-thin, uniform and pinhole-free silica shell, can provide high electromagnetic field to enhance the Raman signals of probed molecules. The inert silica shell acts as tunneling barrier prevents the core from interacting with the environment.
SHINERS has already been applied to a number of challenging systems, such as hydrogen and CO on Pt(hkl) and Rh(hkl), which can’t be realized by traditional SERS. Combining with electrochemical methods, we has investigated the adsorption processes of pyridine at the Au(hkl) single crystal/solution interface, and in-situ monitored the surface electro-oxidation at Au(hkl) electrodes. These pioneering studies demonstrate convincingly the ability of SHINERS in exploring correlations between structure and reactivity as well as in monitoring intermediates at the interfaces. SHINERS was also explored from semiconductor surface for industry, to living bacteria for life science, and to pesticide residue detection for food safety. The concept of shell-isolated nanoparticle-enhancement is being applied to other spectroscopies such as infrared absorption, sum frequency generation and fluorescence.
Jian-Feng Li et al., Nature, 2010, 464, 392-395.