Pen-on-Paper Approach Toward the Design of Universal Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering Substrates



The translation of a technology from the laboratory into the real world should meet the demand of economic viability and operational simplicity. Inspired by recent advances in conductive ink pens for electronic devices on paper, we present a “pen-on-paper” approach for making surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) substrates. Through this approach, no professional training is required to create SERS arrays on paper using an ordinary fountain pen filled with plasmonic inks comprising metal nanoparticles of arbitrary shape and size. We demonstrate the use of plasmonic inks made of gold nanospheres, silver nanospheres and gold nanorods, to write SERS arrays that can be used with various excitation wavelengths. The strong SERS activity of these features allowed us to reach detection limits down to 10 attomoles of dye molecules in a sample volume of 10 μL, depending on the excitation wavelength, dye molecule and type of nanoparticles. Furthermore, such simple substrates were applied to pesticide detection down to 20 ppb. This universal approach offers portable, cost effective fabrication of efficient SERS substrates at the point of care. This approach should bring SERS closer to the real world through ink cartridges to be fixed to a pen to create plasmonic sensors at will.