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J Am Chem Soc. 2010 May 5;132(17):6081-90. doi: 10.1021/ja909850s.

High-resolution spectral analysis of individual SERS-active nanoparticles in flow.

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National Flow Cytometry Resource, Bioscience Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545, USA.


Nanoparticle spectroscopic tags based on surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) are playing an increasingly important role in bioassay and imaging applications. The ability to rapidly characterize large populations of such tags spectroscopically in a high-throughput flow-based platform will open new areas for their application and provide new tools for advancing their development. We demonstrate here a high-resolution spectral flow cytometer capable of acquiring Raman spectra of individual SERS-tags at flow rates of hundreds of particles per second, while maintaining the spectral resolution required to make full use of the detailed information encoded in the Raman signature for advanced multiplexing needs. The approach allows multiple optical parameters to be acquired simultaneously over thousands of individual nanoparticle tags. Characteristics such as tag size, brightness, and spectral uniformity are correlated on a per-particle basis. The tags evaluated here display highly uniform spectral signatures, but with greater variability in brightness. Subpopulations in the SERS response, not apparent in ensemble measurements, are also shown to exist. Relating tag variability to synthesis parameters makes flow-based spectral characterization a powerful tool for advancing particle development through its ability to provide rapid feedback on strategies aimed at constraining desired tag properties. Evidence for single-tag signal saturation at high excitation power densities is also shown, suggesting a role for high-throughput investigation of fundamental properties of the SERS tags as well.

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