The ideal surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) substrate should fulfil the following: (a) predictable SERS enhancement, (b) macroscale SERS signal uniformity, and (c) suitability for mass production at low costs. Macroscale SERS uniformity and reproducibility at practical levels are big obstacles, which have been preventing most SERS substrates from reliable sensing applications. We have previously shown that SERS-active nanopillar structures, fabricated by lithography-free processes, exhibit high average SERS enhancements and are mass producible. Here, we report an optimized process and show that the improved structures exhibit unrivalled macroscale SERS uniformities (RSD: ∼2.5% in millimeter scale, ∼7% in wafer scale) and reproducibility (RSD: ∼1.5% across 3 wafers), while at the same time exhibiting a very large average SERS enhancement factor of >108. The obtained SERS uniformity (~2.5% RSD in millimeter scale) is the best to date measured on large-area solid SERS substrates. Fast and reproducible SERS analysis of trans-1,2-bis (4-pyridyl) ethylene down to 4x10-13 mol is demonstrated using the optimized structures. We emphasize that achieving simultaneously macroscopic, practical-level SERS signal reproducibility and high enhancement via a lithography-free process is a notable advance towards industrialization of substrate-based SERS sensors.
- Mask‐less reactive ion etching
- SERS substrate
- SERA uniformity
- Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy