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Tuning the SERS Response with Ag-Au Nanoparticle-Embedded Polymer Thin Film Substrates

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journal contribution
posted on 2015-06-17, 00:00 authored by V. Kesava Rao, T. P. Radhakrishnan
Development of facile routes to the fabrication of thin film substrates with tunable surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) efficiency and identification of the optimal conditions for maximizing the enhancement factor (EF) are significant in terms of both fundamental and application aspects of SERS. In the present work, polymer thin films with embedded bimetallic nanoparticles of Ag-Au are fabricated by a simple two-stage protocol. Ag nanoparticles are formed in the first stage, by the in situ reduction of silver nitrate by the poly­(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) film through mild thermal annealing, without any additional reducing agent. In the second stage, aqueous solutions of chloroauric acid spread on the Ag-PVA thin film under ambient conditions, lead to the galvanic displacement of Ag by Au in situ inside the film, and the formation of Ag-Au particles. Evolution of the morphology of the bimetallic nanoparticles into hollow cage structures and the distribution of Au on the nanoparticles are revealed through electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. The localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) extinction of the nanocomposite thin film evolves with the Ag-Au composition; theoretical simulation of the extinction spectra provides insight into the observed trends. The Ag-Au-PVA thin films are found to be efficient substrates for SERS. The EF follows the variation of the LSPR extinction vis-à-vis the excitation laser wavelength, but with an offset, and the maximum SERS effect is obtained at very low Au content; experiments with Rhodamine 6G showed EFs on the order of 108 and a limit of detection of 0.6 pmol. The present study describes a facile and simple fabrication of a nanocomposite thin film that can be conveniently deployed in SERS investigations, and the utility of the bimetallic system to tune and maximize the EF.