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Study shows nanoshells ideal as chemical nanosensors

'Nanoshells' enhance sensitivity to chemical detection by factor of 10 billion New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science finds that tailored nanoparticles known as nanoshells can enhance chemical sensing by as much as 10 billion times. That makes them about 10,000 times more effective at Raman scattering than traditional methods.

When molecules and materials scatter light, a small fraction of the light interacts in such a way that it allows scientists to determine their detailed chemical makeup. This property, known as Raman scattering, is used by medical researchers, drug designers, chemists and other scientists to determine what materials are made of. An enormous limitation in the use of Raman scattering has been its extremely weak sensitivity. While it was discovered almost three decades ago that roughened metallic surfaces could enhance Raman scattering signals by factors of 1 million, this "surface-enhancement" effect has been difficult to control, predict, and reproduce for practical sensing applications. Now, Rice researchers have shown that nanoshells can provide large, clean, reproducible enhancements of this effect, opening the door for new, all-optical sensing applications. "Not only did we find that nanoshells are extremely effective at magnifying the Raman signature of molecules, we found each individual nanoshell acts as an independent Raman enhancer," said lead researcher Naomi Halas, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Professor of Chemistry and Director of Rice's Laboratory of Nanophotonics. "That creates an opportunity to design all-optical nanoscale sensors -- essentially new molecular-level diagnostic instruments -- that could detect as little as a few molecules of a target substance, which could be anything from a drug molecule or a key disease protein to a deadly chemical agent." About 1/20th the size of a red blood cell, nanoshells are about the size of a virus. They
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Source:Eurekalert


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