Rapid identification of nicotine in electronic cigarette liquids based on surface-enhanced raman scattering

Jun Yi Chien, Yong Chun Gu, Hsin Mei Tsai, Chun Hao Liu, Chia Yuan Yen, Yuh Lin Wang, Juen Kai Wang, Chi Hung Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nicotine-containing electronic cigarette liquid (e-liquid) is prohibited in many countries, creating requirements for rapid detection approaches for on-site inspection or screening for large amounts of samples. Here, we demonstrate a simple way to identify nicotine using surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) with substrates made of silver nanoparticle arrays imbedded in anodic aluminum oxide nanochannels (Ag/AAO). Compared with the reported colloidal nanoparticle-based SERS, that required serial dilutions to enable colloid aggregation in the viscous e-liquid, a small amount of undiluted e-liquid sample can be directly added onto our solid-phase Ag/AAO substrate without any pre-treatment. The sensitivity of our SERS measurements is 2e3 orders of magnitude higher than that required for identification of nicotine in e-liquid, which is typically around 1000e18,000 ppm. Using such nanoparticle array-based SERS, we have tested 22 commercially available e-liquid products, using the corresponding gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCeMS) reports as the reference. The SERS measurements were done within one hour and successfully identified 20 samples. Only 2 samples showed SERS interference from ingredients that were not suitable for SERS analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)302-308
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Food and Drug Analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Electronic cigarette liquid
  • Nicotine
  • SERS

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