Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) has demonstrated great potential to analyze a variety of bio/chemical molecular interactions within cells in a highly sensitive and selective manner. Despite significant advancements, it remains a critical challenge to ensure high sensitivity and selectivity, while achieving uniform signal enhancement and high reproducibility for quantitative detection of targeted biomarkers within a complex stem cell microenvironment. Herein, we demonstrate an innovative sensing platform, using graphene-coated homogeneous plasmonic metal (Au) nanoarrays, which synergize both electromagnetic mechanism (EM)- and chemical mechanism (CM)-based enhancement. Through the homogeneous plasmonic nanostructures, generated by laser interference lithography (LIL), highly reproducible enhancement of Raman signals could be obtained via a strong and uniform EM. Additionally, the graphene-functionalized surface simultaneously amplifies the Raman signals by an optimized CM, which aligns the energy level of the graphene oxide with the target molecule by tuning its oxidation levels, consequently increasing the sensitivity and accuracy of our sensing system. Using the dual-enhanced Raman scattering from both EM from the homogeneous plasmonic Au nanoarray and CM from the graphene surface, our graphene–Au hybrid nanoarray was successfully utilized to detect as well as quantify a specific biomarker (TuJ1) gene expression levels to characterize neuronal differentiation of human neural stem cells (hNSCs). Collectively, we believe our unique graphene–plasmonic hybrid nanoarray can be extended to a wide range of applications in the development of simple, rapid, and accurate sensing platforms for screening various bio/chemical molecules.
KEYWORDS : Surface-enhanced Raman scattering, 2D nanomaterials, DNA detection, biosensing, stem cell differentiation