Nanosphere molecularly imprinted polymers doped with gold nanoparticles for high selectivity molecular sensors

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We report the first attempt of using molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) in the shape of nanoparticles that were doped with gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) for surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS)-based sensing of molecular species. Specifically, AuNPs doped molecularly imprinted nano-spheres (AuNPs@nanoMIPs) were synthesized by one-pot precipitation polymerization using Sudan IV as the template for the SERS sensing. The AuNPs@nanoMIPs were characterized by various modes of scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) that showed the exact location of the AuNPs inside the MIP particles. The effects of Au concentration and solution stirring on the shape and the polydispersity of the particles were studied. Significant enhancement of the Raman signals was observed only when the MIP particles were doped with the AuNPs. The SERS signal improved significantly with increase in the Au concentration inside the AuNPs@nanoMIPs. Selectivity measurements of the Sudan IV imprinted AuNPs@nanoMIPs carried out with different Sudan derivatives showed high selectivity of the AuNPs-doped MIP particles.