A virus-based nanoplasmonic structure as a surface-enhanced Raman biosensor.

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Fabrication of nanoscale structures with localized surface plasmons allows for substantial increase in sensitivity of chem/bio sensors. The main challenge for realizing complex nanoplasmonic structures in solution is the high level of precision required at the nanoscale to position metal nanoparticles in 3D. In this study, we report a virus-like particle (VLP) for building a 3D plasmonic nanostructure in solution in which gold nanoparticles are precisely positioned on the VLP by directed self-assembly techniques. These structures allow for concentration of electromagnetic fields in the desired locations between the gold nanoparticles or “hot spots”. We measure the efficiency of the optical field spatial concentration for the first time, which results in a ten-fold enhancement of the capsid Raman peaks. Our experimental results agree with our 3D finite element simulations. Furthermore, we demonstrate as a proof-of-principle that the plasmonic nanostructures can be utilized in DNA detection down to 0.25ng/µl (lowest concentration tested), while the protein peaks from the interior of the nanoplasmonic structures, potentially, can serve as an internal tracer for the biosensors.