Sensitive and detailed molecular structural information plays an increasing role in molecular biophysics and molecular medicine. Therefore, vibrational spectroscopic techniques, such as Raman scattering, which provide high structural information content are of growing interest in biophysical and biomedical research. Raman spectroscopy can be revolutionized when the inelastic scattering process takes place in the very close vicinity of metal nanostructures. Under these conditions, strongly increased Raman signals can be obtained due to resonances between optical fields and the collective oscillations of the free electrons in the metal. This effect of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) allows us to push vibrational spectroscopy to new limits in detection sensitivity, lateral resolution, and molecular structural selectivity. This opens up exciting perspectives also in molecular biospectroscopy. This article highlights three directions where SERS can offer interesting new capabilities. This includes SERS as a technique for detecting and tracking a single molecule, a SERS-based nanosensor for probing the chemical composition and the pH value in a live cell, and the effect of so-called surface-enhanced Raman optical activity, which provides information on the chiral organization of molecules on surfaces.
- Raman spectroscopy
- Single molecule