Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) spectroscopy has evolved into a cross-disciplinary analytical technique by unveiling relevant chemical, biological, material, and structural information. The focus of this review is on two critical properties for successfully expanding applications of SERS spectroscopy: quality of the plasmonic substrate and molecule localization to the substrate. In this review, we discuss recent work on quantifying SERS distance dependence, key factors for substrate characterization and performance evaluation, expansion of SERS applications through substrate development for UV plasmonics and short-distance capture strategies for optimizing analyte-surface structures. After surveying the recent developments of these seemingly disparate fields, we suggest new research directions that may originate from a synergistic blend of all the herein discussed topics. Finally, we discuss major challenges and open questions related to the application of SERS for understanding of chemical processes at the nanoscale, with special interest on in situ catalysts and biosensing.
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