Differential SERS activity of gold and silver nanostructures enabled by adsorbed poly(vinylpyrrolidone). Academic Article uri icon


  • We report that poly(vinylpyrrolidone) (PVP), a common stabilizer of colloidal dispersions of noble metal nanostructures, has a dramatic effect on their surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) activity and enables highly selective SERS detection of analytes of various type and charge. Nanostructures studied include PVP-stabilized Au-Ag nanoshells synthesized by galvanic exchange reaction of citrate-reduced Ag nanoparticles (NPs), as well as solid citrate-reduced Ag and Au NPs, both before and after stabilization with PVP. All nanostructures were characterized in terms of their size, surface plasmon resonance wavelength, surface charge, and chemical composition. While the SERS activities of the parent citrate-reduced Ag and Au NPs are similar for rhodamine 6G (R6G) and 1,2-bis(4-pyridyl)ethylene (BPE) at various pH values, PVP-stabilized nanostructures demonstrate large differences in SERS enhancement factors (EFs) between these analytes depending on their chemical nature and protonation state. At pH values higher than BPE's pK(a2) of 5.65, where the analyte is largely unprotonated, the PVP-coated Au-Ag nanoshells showed a high SERS EF of >10(8). In contrast, SERS EFs were 10(3)- to 10(5)-fold lower for the protonated form of BPE at lower pH values, or for the usually highly SERS-active cationic R6G. The differential SERS activity of PVP-stabilized nanostructures is a result of discriminatory binding of analytes within-adsorbed PVP monolayer and a subsequent increase of analyte concentration at the nanostructure surface. Our experimental and theoretical quantum chemical calculations show that BPE binding with PVP-stabilized Au-Ag nanoshells is stronger when the analyte is in its unprotonated form as compared to its cationic, protonated form at a lower pH.

published proceedings

  • Langmuir

author list (cited authors)

  • Pinkhasova, P., Yang, L., Zhang, Y., Sukhishvili, S., & Du, H

citation count

  • 63

complete list of authors

  • Pinkhasova, Polina||Yang, Liu||Zhang, Yong||Sukhishvili, Svetlana||Du, Henry

publication date

  • January 2012