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Universal surface-enhanced Raman tags : individual nanorods for measurements from the visible to the infrared (514 – 1064 nm)

McLintock, Alison and Cunha Matos, Carlota A. and Zagnoni, Michele and Millington, Owain R. and Wark, Alastair W. (2014) Universal surface-enhanced Raman tags : individual nanorods for measurements from the visible to the infrared (514 – 1064 nm). ACS Nano, 8 (8). pp. 8600-8609. ISSN 1936-0851

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Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) is a promising imaging modality for use in a variety of multiplexed tracking and sensing applications in biological environments. However, the uniform production of SERS nanoparticle tags with high yield and brightness still remains a significant challenge. Here, we describe an approach based on the controlled co-adsorption of multiple dye species onto gold nanorods to create tags that can be detected across a much wider range of excitation wavelengths (514 – 1064 nm) compared to conventional approaches that typically focus on a single wavelength. This was achieved without the added complexity of nanoparticle aggregation or growing surrounding metallic shells to further enhance the surface-enhanced resonance Raman scattering (SERRS) signal. Correlated Raman and scanning electron microscopy mapping measurements of individual tags were used to clearly demonstrate that strong and reproducible SERRS signals at high particle yields (>92 %) were readily achievable. The polyelectrolyte-wrapped nanorod-dye conjugates were also found to be highly stable as well as non-cytotoxic. To demonstrate the use of these universal tags for the multimodal optical imaging of biological specimens, confocal Raman and fluorescence maps of stained immune cells following nanoparticle uptake were acquired at several excitation wavelengths and compared with dark-field images. The ability to colocalize and track individual optically encoded nanoparticles across a wide range of wavelengths simultaneously will enable the use of SERS alongside other imaging techniques for the real-time monitoring of cell-nanoparticle interactions.