The chemical modification of the niobium (Nb) surface after irradiation with femtosecond laser pulses was investigated by scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, grazing incidence X-ray diffraction, and micro-Raman spectroscopy. The physical-chemical analyses indicated that the laser treatment results in oxidation of the Nb surface, as well as in the formation of Nb hydrides. Remarkably, after the samples' washing in ethanol, a strong Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) signal originating from the toluene residual traces was evidenced. Further, it was observed that the laser irradiated Nb surface is able to provide a SERS enhancement of ∼1.3 × 103 times for rhodamine 6G solutions. Thus, for the first time it was shown that Nb/Nb oxide surfaces could exhibit SERS functionality, and so one can expect applications in biological/biochemical screening or for sensing of dangerous environmental substances.

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