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Surface-enhanced Raman Scattering for Defense Applications

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Sensors & Electronics Technology

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Biologicals, Chemicals, Explosives, Surface Contamination, Trace Detection


Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) has demonstrated to be a vibrant field of research that is growing exponentially in scope and applicability while pushing at the ultimate limits of sensitivity. SERS occurs when nanometallic substrates locally amplify electromagnetic fields at or near particle surfaces providing enhancements over normal Raman Spectroscopy, typically over a million-fold. Along with other advantages such as, reduction of interfering fluorescence, decreased detection times, and reduction of laser power required for analysis, SERS has been positioned to be an ideal technique for low level, low consumable detection schemes while pushing towards miniaturization of instrumentation.


The objective of this Exploratory Team (ET) is to identify nations a) willing to collaborate on detection strategies focused on SERS based technology, b) share existing technological information and techniques, and c) have the necessary resources to support subsequent Task Group (TG) activities. The ET will define the scope and schedule of the technical information exchange and identify where NATO should increase scientific and technical focus in SERS based detection modalities for defense related purposes.


On the 2nd and 3rd of October 2017, a NATO Specialist meeting was held in Bratislava Slovakia. NATO SET-253, “Surface-enhanced Raman Spectroscopy for Defense Applications”, brought together attendees from six different NATO nations (and Partners for Peace) as well as industrial representatives to discuss the current state of SERS based research as it relates to military applications. Several key takeaways, as outlined from the final published Tech Report (SET253-SERS-For-DefenseApplications-TechnicalReport) were: • Substrates – There is a need to establish a baseline characterization protocol for substrates. • Sampling – There is a need to understand the best practices for sampling techniques to realize trace detection capabilities of SERS based sensing. • Integration with Raman Systems – There is a need to ensure SERS based sensing is compatible with current and future Raman instrumentation. • Advantage of current techniques – There is a need to understand current state of the art for trace detection in defence applications to better define potential advantages of SERS. The above topics will be discussed in greater detail along with Defining Mission Spaces where SERS can have the most impact from a NATO perspective. This proposed ET will provide two more opportunities for the SERS NATO community to come together to share additional information and allow greater discussion into potential S&T objectives and setting up broader collaborations.

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