Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy of organic molecules and living cells with gold-plated black silicon

Lena Golubewa*, Renata Karpicz, Ieva Matulaitiene, Algirdas Selskis, Danielis Rutkauskas, Aliaksandr Pushkarchuk, Tatsiana Khlopina, Dominik Michels, Dmitry Lyakhov, Tatsiana Kulahava, Ali Shah, Yuri Svirko, Polina Kuzhir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Black silicon (bSi) refers to an etched silicon surface comprising arrays of microcones that effectively suppress reflection from UV to near-infrared (NIR) while simultaneously enhancing the scattering and absorption of light. This makes bSi covered with a nmthin layer of plasmonic metal, i.e., gold, an attractive substrate material for sensing of bio-macromolecules and living cells using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). The performed Raman measurements accompanied with finite element numerical simulation and density functional theory analysis revealed that at the 785 nm excitation wavelength, the SERS enhancement factor of the bSi/Au substrate is as high as 108 due to a combination of electromagnetic and chemical mechanisms. This finding makes the SERS-active bSi/Au substrate suitable for detecting trace amounts of organic molecules. We demonstrate the outstanding performance of this substrate by highly sensitive and specific detection of a small organic molecule of 4-mercaptobenzoic acid and living C6 rat glioma cell nucleic acids/proteins/lipids. Specifically, the bSi/Au SERS-active substrate offers a unique opportunity to investigate the living cells' malignant transformation using characteristic protein disulfide Raman bands as a marker. Our findings evidence that bSi/Au provides a pathway to the highly sensitive and selective, scalable, and low-cost substrate for lab-on-a-chip SERS biosensors that can be integrated into silicon-based photonics devices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50971-50984
Number of pages14
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Black silicon
  • DFT
  • Enhancement factor
  • Living cells
  • Small organic molecules
  • Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy


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