A bioassay technique, based on surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) tagged gold nanoparticles encapsulated with a biotin functionalised polymer, has been demonstrated through the spectroscopic detection of a streptavidin binding event. A methodical series of steps preceded these results: synthesis of nanoparticles which were found to give a reproducible SERS signal; design and synthesis of polymers with RAFT-functional end groups able to encapsulate the gold nanoparticle. The polymer also enabled the attachment of a biotin molecule functionalised so that it could be attached to the hybrid nanoparticle through a modular process. Finally, the demonstrations of a positive bioassay for this model construct using streptavidin/biotin binding. The synthesis of silver and gold nanoparticles was performed by using tri-sodium citrate as the reducing agent. The shape of the silver nanoparticles was quite difficult to control. Gold nanoparticles were able to be prepared in more regular shapes (spherical) and therefore gave a more consistent and reproducible SERS signal. The synthesis of gold nanoparticles with a diameter of 30 nm was the most reproducible and these were also stable over the longest periods of time. From the SERS results the optimal size of gold nanoparticles was found to be approximately 30 nm. Obtaining a consistent SERS signal with nanoparticles smaller than this was particularly difficult. Nanoparticles more than 50 nm in diameter were too large to remain suspended for longer than a day or two and formed a precipitate, rendering the solutions useless for our desired application. Gold nanoparticles dispersed in water were able to be stabilised by the addition of as-synthesised polymers dissolved in a water miscible solvent. Polymer stabilised AuNPs could not be formed from polymers synthesised by conventional free radical polymerization, i.e. polymers that did not possess a sulphur containing end-group. This indicated that the sulphur-containing functionality present within the polymers was essential for the self assembly process to occur. Polymer stabilization of the gold colloid was evidenced by a range of techniques including, visible spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis and Raman spectroscopy. After treatment of the hybrid nanoparticles with a series of SERS tags, focussing on 2-quinolinethiol the SERS signals were found to have comparable signal intensity to the citrate stabilised gold nanoparticles. This finding illustrates that the stabilization process does not interfere with the ability of gold nanoparticles to act as substrates for the SERS effect. Incorporation of a biotin moiety into the hybrid nanoparticles was achieved through a =click‘ reaction between an alkyne-functionalised polymer and an azido-functionalised biotin analogue. This functionalized biotin was prepared through a 4-step synthesis from biotin. Upon exposure of the surface-bound streptavidin to biotin-functionalised polymer hybrid gold nanoparticles, then washing, a SERS signal was obtained from the 2-quinolinethiol which was attached to the gold nanoparticles (positive assay). After exposure to functionalised polymer hybrid gold nanoparticles without biotin present then washing a SERS signal was not obtained as the nanoparticles did not bind to the streptavidin (negative assay). These results illustrate the applicability of the use of SERS active functional-polymer encapsulated gold nanoparticles for bioassay application
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