The PANTHER, or PAthogen Notification for THreatening Environmental Releases, can detect the presence of 24 harmful airborne pathogens — E. coli, anthrax, the plague and the like — in as little as three minutes, beating out the standard 20 required by most scanners. What's more, it's only a cubic foot in size and weighs 37 pounds, making it easy to tote around.
At the heart of the unit is the CANARY (or Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields) bioelectronic sensor that uses pathogen-specific B cells, which are engineered to let off photons whenever they come across a deadly substance. The PANTHER provides the CANARY with air samples, and then reports back what the sensor finds.
The unit is being developed by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory and has had limited testing so far. If it performs well, it could be installed on farms and in food processing plants to make sure the food isn't contaminated.