Dynamic Imaging of Multiple SERS Hotspots on Single Nanoparticles

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Signal intensity fluctuations are a ubiquitous characteristic of single-molecule surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS). In this work, we observed SERS intensity fluctuations (SIFs) from single nanoparticles fully coated with an adsorbate layer. Fluctuations from dry, fully coated nanoparticles are assigned to a dynamic molecule/metal environment wherein atomic-scale reconstructions support SERS. Using super resolution imaging techniques, we were able to pinpoint the positions of the fluctuations with subparticle precision. We observed that the fluctuation events were separated spatially, temporally, and were unique to different laser excitation wavelengths and polarizations. Dual-wavelength super-resolution SERS imaging with green and red lasers reveal various classes of SIFs that occur either simultaneously or nonsimultaneously and from either the same or different location on a single nanoparticle. Similar results were seen when the particle is excited with different polarizations. This suggests that single molecule responses from several different hotspots in the same nanoparticle were readily probed. Furthermore, each nanoparticle contains multiple unique hotspots of different strengths, and resonance conditions, which are accessible by the different illumination conditions. The plasmon resonances localized by the roughness features at the nanoparticle's surface play a significant role in the fluctuation events. Our experiments show that SERS hotspots that support single molecules are not a static feature of the nanoparticle. This information should be useful to guide future single-molecule SERS experiments.

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ACS Photonics

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