To implement surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy as a practical detection method, highly enhancing, stable, and reproducible substrates need to be fabricated in an efficient manner, and their performance in different solution environments should be well characterized. In this work structured porous gold films have been fabricated using colloidal crystals to template gold nanoparticles. These films were integrated into an online flow chamber and used to study the effects of pH and other additives on the detection of sodium cyanide. The gold films proved to be highly enhancing and were used to detect cyanide over a wide range of pH values in the concentration range of ~2 to 200 ppb. The Raman signal intensity could be increased by lowering the pH after the adsorption of cyanide, which was likely due to both a change in the ionization state and a conformational change of the bound molecules. The peak intensity could also be enhanced multifold by treating the substrate with silver nitrate. Cyanide could be removed from the substrates using hydrochloric acid, although this also passivated the structures, and the activity could only be restored partially with tannic acid. These results provide a rational method to optimize the online detection of cyanide in water.
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