To prepare silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) on infrared-transmitting crystal for surface-enhanced infrared absorption (SEIRA) measurements, a new strategy is proposed and demonstrated using electroless reduction of preformed silver chloride (AgCl) particles. Silver chloride precipitates were formed using an additive of polyvinyl pyrrolidone (PVP) to vary the size and shape of the precipitates. After settling on germanium substrates, the preformed particles of AgCl were reduced electrolessly and spontaneously coagulated to AgNPs. The resulting AgNPs showed a multilayer structure, but the AgNPs were isolated, as shown by the lack of absorption-band distortion in the SEIRA measurements. Hence, the sensitivity and analyte-loading capacity for SEIRA measurements are improved significantly. To optimize the chemical deposition and electroless reduction method, we examined several parameters, including the concentrations of reagents during AgCl precipitation and the reaction time required in the deposition-reduction steps. We used para-nitrobenzoic acid (pNBA) to probe the intensity of the SEIRA effect for the prepared substrates. To better correlate the SEIRA performances with each variable, we examined the prepared substrates using a scanning electron microscope and SEIRA. The results indicate that two major morphologies of AgNPs are observed: nanoparticles and nanorods. The distributions of nanorods we observed were related to the procedures used to prepare the substrates. Based on SEIRA signals, we observed enhancement factors approaching three orders of magnitude compared to conventional transmission measurement. Also, based on the morphologies, the large signals were mainly caused by the formation of multilayers of non-percolated AgNPs.
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