Targeted suppression of peptide degradation in Ag-based surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy by depletion of hot carriers
in: Small (2022)
Sample degradation, in particular of biomolecules, frequently occurs in surface- enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) utilizing supported silver SERS substrates. Currently, thermal and/or photocatalytic effects are considered to cause sample degradation. This paper establishes the efficient inhibition of sample degradation using iodide which is demonstrated by a systematic SERS study of a small peptide in aqueous solution. Remarkably, a distinct charge separation-induced surface potential difference is observed for SERS substrates under laser irradiation using Kelvin probe force microscopy. This directly unveils the photocatalytic effect of Ag-SERS substrates. Based on the presented results, it is proposed that plasmonic photocatalysis dominates sample degradation in SERS experiments and the suppression of typical SERS sample degradation by iodide is discussed by means of the energy levels of the substrate under mild irradiation conditions. This approach paves the way towards more reliable and reproducible SERS studies of biomolecules under physiological conditions.