Marangoni Convection Assisted Single Molecule Detection with Nanojet Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy

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Many single-molecule (SM) label-free techniques such as scanning probe microscopies (SPM) and magnetic force spectroscopies (MFS) provide high resolution surface topography information, but lack chemical information. Typical surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) systems provide chemical information on the analytes, but lack spatial resolution. In addition, a challenge in SERS sensors is to bring analytes into the so-called "hot spots" (locations where the enhancement of electromagnetic field amplitude is larger than 10). Previously described methods of fluid transport around hot spots like thermophoresis, thermodiffusion/Soret effect, and electrothermoplasmonic flow are either too weak or detrimental in bringing new molecules to hot spots. Herein, we combined the resonant plasmonic enhancement and photonic nanojet enhancemnet of local electric field on nonplanar SERS structures, to construct a stable, high-resolution, and below diffraction limit platform for single molecule label-free detection. In addition, we utilize Marangoni convection (mass transfer due to surface tension gradient) to bring new analytes into the hotspot. An enhancement factor of ∼3.6 × 10 was obtained in the proposed system. Rhodamine-6G (R6G) detection of up to a concentration of 10 M, an improvement of two orders of magnitude, was achieved using the nanojet effect. The proposed system could provide a simple, high throughput SERS system for single molecule analysis at high spatial resolution.

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ACS sensors

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