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Anal Bioanal Chem. 2009 Aug;394(7):1827-32. doi: 10.1007/s00216-009-2832-7. Epub 2009 May 15.

Surface-enhanced Raman scattering in nanoliter droplets: towards high-sensitivity detection of mercury (II) ions.

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Department of Applied Chemistry, Hanyang University, Ansan, 426-791, South Korea.


We report a new method for the trace analysis of mercury (II) ions in water. The approach involves the use of droplet-based microfluidics combined with surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) detection. This novel combination provides both fast and sensitive detection of mercury (II) ions in water. Specifically, mercury (II) ion detection is performed by using the strong affinity between gold nanoparticles and mercury (II) ions. This interaction causes a change in the SERS signal of the reporter molecule rhodamine B that is a function of mercury (II) ion concentration. To allow both reproducible and quantitative analysis, aqueous samples are encapsulated within nanoliter-sized droplets. Manipulation of such droplets through winding microchannels affords rapid and efficient mixing of the contents. Additionally, memory effects, caused by the precipitation of nanoparticle aggregates on channel walls, are removed since the aqueous droplets are completely isolated by a continuous oil phase. Quantitative analysis of mercury (II) ions was performed by calculating spectral peak area of rhodamine B at 1,647 cm(-1). Using this approach, the calculated concentration limit of detection was estimated to be between 100 and 500 ppt. Compared with fluorescence-based methods for the trace analysis of mercury (II) ions, the detection sensitivities were enhanced by approximately one order of magnitude. The proposed analytical method offers a rapid and reproducible trace detection capability for mercury (II) ions in water.

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