The Royal Society of Chemistry have awarded the University of Southampton’s chemistry department a National Chemical Landmark blue plaque in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the discovery of a ground-breaking technique which has revolutionised science.

The technique, known as Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy or SERS is used for detecting tiny quantities of molecules. The technique has been practiced in situations such as crime scene forensic analysis, drug detection as well as establishing the origins of works of art.

Professors Patrick Hendra and Jim McQuillan with the blue plaque awarded to the University of Southampton. Photo Courtesy of the RSC.

Professors Patrick Hendra and Jim McQuillan with the National Landmark blue plaque awarded to the University of Southampton. Photo Courtesy of the RSC.

Professor David Phillips, Royal Society of Chemistry Past President said on awarding the discovery of SERS with a National Landmark blue plaque:

“I am immensely proud that my former departmental colleagues at the University of Southampton were responsible for discovering SERS, particularly since I was a member of staff in the Department when the discovery was made.

“The practical application of SERS in chemistry, genetics and healthcare is of vital scientific importance, from the detection of cancer genes to DNA fingerprinting. It is my great pleasure to come back to Southampton on behalf of the Royal Society of Chemistry and to present a prestigious Chemical Landmark.”

The discovery was made at the University of Southampton in the 1970s by Professors Martin Fleischmann, Patrick Hendra and Jim McQuillan. The team had discovered that by roughening the metal surface upon which the molecules they were examining had been placed, they could increase the signal so that they could detect these molecules, by a million times. This allowed them to detect molecules in far smaller quantities than ever before.

 

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