Label-free in situ SERS imaging of biofilms

Natalia P. Ivleva, Michael Wagner, Agathe Szkola, Harald Horn, Reinhard Niessner, Christoph Haisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) is a promising technique for the chemical characterization of biological systems. It yields highly informative spectra, can be applied directly in aqueous environment, and has high sensitivity in comparison with normal Raman spectroscopy. Moreover, SERS imaging can provide chemical information with spatial resolution in the micrometer range (chemical imaging). In this paper, we report for the first time on the application of SERS for in situ, label-free imaging of biofilms and demonstrate the suitability of this technique for the characterization of the complex biomatrix. Biofilms, being communities of microorganisms embedded in a matrix of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), represent the predominant mode of microbial life. Knowledge of the chemical composition and the structure of the biofilm matrix is important in different fields, e.g., medicine, biology, and industrial processes. We used colloidal silver nanoparticles for the in situ SERS analysis. Good SERS measurement reproducibility, along with a significant enhancement of Raman signals by SERS (>104) and highly informative SERS signature, enables rapid SERS imaging (1 s for a single spectrum) of the biofilm matrix. Altogether, this work illustrates the potential of SERS for biofilm analysis, including the detection of different constituents and the determination of their distribution in a biofilm even at low biomass concentration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10184-10194
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number31
StatePublished - 12 Aug 2010


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