Swellable polymer films containing Au nanoparticles for point-of-care therapeutic drug monitoring using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy

Wendy W Y Lee, Colin P. McCoy, Ryan F. Donnelly, Steven E J Bell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
492 Downloads (Pure)


Large (10 × 10 cm) sheets of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) active polymer have been prepared by stabilising metal nanoparticle aggregates within dry hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC) films. In these films the aggregates are protected by the polymer matrix during storage but in use they are released when aqueous analyte droplets cause the films to swell to their gel form. The fact that these "Poly-SERS" films can be prepared in bulk but then cut to size and stored in air before use means that they provide a cost effective and convenient method for routine SERS analysis. Here we have tested both Ag and Au Poly-SERS films for use in point-of-care monitoring of therapeutic drugs, using phenytoin as the test compound. Phenytoin in water could readily be detected using Ag Poly-SERS films but dissolving the compound in phosphate buffered saline (PBS) to mimic body fluid samples caused loss of the drug signal due to competition for metal surface sites from Cl- ions in the buffer solution. However, with Au Poly-SERS films there was no detectable interference from Cl- and these materials allowed phenytoin to be detected at 1.8 mg L-1, even in PBS. The target range of detection of phenytoin in therapeutic drug monitoring is 10-20 mg L-1. With the Au Poly-SERS films, the absolute signal generated by a given concentration of phenytoin was lower for the films than for the parent colloid but the SERS signals were still high enough to be used for therapeutic monitoring, so the cost in sensitivity for moving from simple aqueous colloids to films is not so large that it outweighs the advantages which the films bring for practical applications, in particular their ease of use and long shelf life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-116
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Early online date27 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2017


  • Hydroxyethylcellulose
  • Metal nanoparticles
  • Phenytoin
  • Polymer
  • Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy
  • Therapeutic drug monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Environmental Chemistry


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