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A new optimization strategy for the SERS detection of mephedrone using a portable Raman system has been developed. A fractional factorial design was employed, and the number of statistically significant experiments (288) was greatly reduced from the actual total number of experiments (1722), which minimized the workload while maintaining the statistical integrity of the results. A number of conditions were explored in relation to mephedrone SERS signal optimization including the type of nanoparticle, pH, and aggregating agents (salts). Through exercising this design, it was possible to derive the significance of each of the individual variables, and we discovered four optimized SERS protocols for which the reproducibility of the SERS signal and the limit of detection (LOD) of mephedrone were established. Using traditional nanoparticles with a combination of salts and pHs, it was shown that the relative standard deviations of mephedrone-specific Raman peaks were as low as 0.51%, and the LOD was estimated to be around 1.6 g/mL (9.06 10(-6) M), a detection limit well beyond the scope of conventional Raman and extremely low for an analytical method optimized for quick and uncomplicated in-field use.
author list (cited authors)
Mabbott, S., Correa, E., Cowcher, D. P., Allwood, J. W., & Goodacre, R.