Surface-enhanced-Raman-spectroscopy (SERS) can be made an attractive approach for the identification of Raman-active compounds and biological materials (i.e., toxins, viruses, or intact bacterial cells or spores) through development of reproducible, spatially uniform SERS-active substrates. Recently, reproducible (from substrate to substrate), spatially homogeneous (over large areas) SERS-active substrates have been commercialized and are now available in the marketplace. Scanning electron microscopy and high-resolution, tapping-mode atomic force microscopy have been used to analyze these novel plasmonic surfaces for topographical consistency. Additionally, we have assessed, by wavelength-tunable microreflectance spectrometry, the spatial distribution of the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) across a single substrate surface as well as the LSPR variance from substrate to substrate. These analyses reveal that these surfaces are topologically uniform with small LSPR variance from substrate to substrate. Further, we have utilized these patterned surfaces to acquire SERS spectral signatures of four intact, genetically distinct Bacillus spore species cultivated under identical growth conditions. Salient spectral signature features make it possible to discriminate among these genetically distinct spores. Additionally, partial least squares, a multivariate calibration method, has been used to develop personal-computer-borne algorithms useful for classification of unknown spore samples based solely on SERS spectral signatures. To our knowledge, this is the first report detailing application of these commercially available SERS-active substrates to identification of intact Bacillus spores.
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