Optical detection and spectroscopy of single molecules and single nanoparticles have been achieved at room temperature with the use of surface-enhanced Raman scattering. Individual silver colloidal nanoparticles were screened from a large heterogeneous population for special size- dependent properties and were then used to amplify the spectroscopic signatures of adsorbed molecules. For single rhodamine 6G molecules adsorbed on the selected nanoparticles, the intrinsic Raman enhancement factors were on the order of 1014 to 1015, much larger than the ensemble-averaged values derived from conventional measurements. This enormous enhancement leads to vibrational Raman signals that are more intense and more stable than single-molecule fluorescence.
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