Nanoscale Chemical Imaging Using Tip-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy: A Critical Review



Methods for chemical analysis at the nanometer scale are crucial for understanding and characterizing nanostructures of modern materials and biological systems. Tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) combines the chemical information provided by Raman spectroscopy with the signal enhancement known from surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) and the high spatial resolution of atomic force microscopy (AFM) or scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). A metallic or metallized tip is illuminated by a focused laser beam and the resulting strongly enhanced electromagnetic field at the tip apex acts as a highly confined light source for Raman spectroscopic measurements. This Review focuses on the prerequisites for the efficient coupling of light to the tip as well as the shortcomings and pitfalls that have to be considered for TERS imaging, a fascinating but still challenging way to look at the nanoworld. Finally, examples from recent publications have been selected to demonstrate the potential of this technique for chemical imaging with a spatial resolution of approximately 10 nm and sensitivity down to the single-molecule level for applications ranging from materials sciences to life sciences.