Analytical chemistry

Effect of oxidation on surface-enhanced Raman scattering activity of silver nanoparticles: a quantitative correlation.

PMID 21644591


We quantitatively studied, using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), oxidation of substrate-immobilized silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) in a wide range of conditions, including exposure to ambient air and controlled ozone environment under UV irradiation, and we correlated the degree of silver oxidation with surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) enhancement factors (EFs). The SERS activity of pristine and oxidized Ag NPs was assessed by use of trans-1,2-bis(4-pyridyl)ethylene (BPE) and sodium thiocynate as model analytes at the excitation wavelength of 532 nm. Our study showed that the exposure of Ag NPs to parts per million (ppm) level concentrations of ozone led to the formation of Ag(2)O and orders of magnitude reduction in SERS EFs. Such an adverse effect was also notable upon exposure of Ag NPs under ambient conditions where ozone existed at parts per billion (ppb) level. The correlated XPS and SERS studies suggested that formation of just a submonolayer of Ag(2)O was sufficient to decrease markedly the SERS EF of Ag NPs. In addition, studies of changes in plasmon absorption bands pointed to the chemical enhancement as a major reason for deterioration of SERS signals when substrates were pre-exposed to ambient air, and to a combination of changes in chemical and electromagnetic enhancements in the case of substrate pre-exposure to elevated ozone concentrations. Finally, we also found UV irradiation and ozone had a synergistic effect on silver oxidation and thus a detrimental effect on SERS enhancement of Ag NPs and that such oxidation effects were analyte-dependent, as a result of inherent differences in chemical enhancements and molecular binding affinities for various analytes.