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Feasibility of soy protein isolate electrospun nanofibers decorated with metal noble nanoparticles as a possible biodegradable SERS platform
Detection of pathogens, toxins, hazardous chemicals, and allergens in the food industry with reliable, sensitive, efficient, and rapid results has increased the demand to develop innovative diagnostic tools. Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) sensors have demonstrated to detect a wide variety of analytes using nanomaterials like metal nanoparticles. Concerns of synthetic materials that can affect the environment with disposal of sensors have opened the possibility of fabricating SERS sensors with biodegradable materials. Fabrication of electrospun nanofibers from natural polymeric materials such as soy protein isolate can be used as a SERS platform. In the first part of this research, the characteristics of SPI solutions blended with NaOH and polyethylene oxide (PEO) such as PEO Mw, zeta potential and viscosity as well operating parameters such as voltage (15, 20, and 27 kV) were studied to evaluate the best solutions for a nanofibrous SERS platform. Characteristics of electrospun nanofibers, such as surface wettability, fiber diameters, and morphology using SEM, helped determine the most feasible fibers for decoration with noble metal nanoparticles. Fibers fabricated with 12 wt% SPI + 5 wt% PEO (0.1 MDa) + 1 wt% NaOH solution showed the smallest fiber diameter and highest water contact angle measurements. Glutaraldehyde (GLA) was added as a crosslinker to partly increase nanofibers hydrophobicity. These nanofibers were decorated with Au-nanostars and Au@Ag-NPs suspended in 90% butanol and in water. Partly hydrophobic nanofibers decorated with Au-nanostars and Au@Ag-NPs in butanol showed the most feasible results for a SERS platform due to smallest fiber diameter and higher water contact angle. In the second part of this research, decorated SPI nanofibers were evaluated to study its feasibility as a SERS platform for detecting bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic chemical present in food packaging materials. However, SERS spectra were difficult to obtain due to CCD overflow (excessive number of photons) at all laser powers on SPI nanofiber mats. Optimizing other Raman spectroscopy parameters such as the exposure time and the number of averages could enhance the SERS measurements. The fabricated SPI nanofibers in this research showed that hydrophilic and partly hydrophobic nanofibers mats could be used for decoration with metal nanoparticles by suspending the nanoparticles in a hydrophobic solvent. Hydrophilic nanofiber mats with nanoparticles in a hydrophobic solvent open a new strategy for developing another type of SERS platform.