Theoretical Chemistry Accounts

, Volume 125, Issue 3–6, pp 319–327 | Cite as

Surface-enhanced Raman scattering: a new optical probe in molecular biophysics and biomedicine

  • Janina KneippEmail author
  • Burghardt Wittig
  • Henrik Bohr
  • Katrin Kneipp
Regular Article


Sensitive and detailed molecular structural information plays an increasing role in molecular biophysics and molecular medicine. Therefore, vibrational spectroscopic techniques, such as Raman scattering, which provide high structural information content are of growing interest in biophysical and biomedical research. Raman spectroscopy can be revolutionized when the inelastic scattering process takes place in the very close vicinity of metal nanostructures. Under these conditions, strongly increased Raman signals can be obtained due to resonances between optical fields and the collective oscillations of the free electrons in the metal. This effect of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) allows us to push vibrational spectroscopy to new limits in detection sensitivity, lateral resolution, and molecular structural selectivity. This opens up exciting perspectives also in molecular biospectroscopy. This article highlights three directions where SERS can offer interesting new capabilities. This includes SERS as a technique for detecting and tracking a single molecule, a SERS-based nanosensor for probing the chemical composition and the pH value in a live cell, and the effect of so-called surface-enhanced Raman optical activity, which provides information on the chiral organization of molecules on surfaces.


Nanosensor Raman spectroscopy Cells Single molecule Plasmonics 



We would like to thank the reviewers and the editor for useful comments and suggestions for improving our manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janina Kneipp
    • 2
    • 1
    Email author
  • Burghardt Wittig
    • 3
  • Henrik Bohr
    • 4
  • Katrin Kneipp
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Federal Institute for Materials Research and TestingBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Chemistry DepartmentHumboldt University BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Molecular Biology and BioinformaticsCharité University MedicineBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Physics DepartmentDanish Technical UniversityLyngbyDenmark

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