Researchers at Cornell University and the University of Albany recently unveiled a portable device capable of detecting the presence of even a tiny amount of anthrax spores within an hour.
The detector measures approximately 3 centimeters, which is compact enough to be integrated into the overhead compartment of an airplane.
It can also (potentially) be modified to detect other pathogens such as salmonella, or deployed as a DNA forensics tool.
To use the device, a sample must first be inserted.
The detector then recovers cells, collects and purifies DNA and subsequently conducts real-time polymerase chain reactions (PCR) to determine if anthrax is present.
Researchers are working to develop new methods for pumping fluids in the device, a system that currently occupies the majority of the detector and drains most of the power.
As such, advanced pumping systems based on silicon processing are being considered, which could allow engineers to fabricate most of the system components on a single chip.