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Besides guiding your saw or projecting level and plumb lines, lasers can now zap mosquitoes. A team at Intellectual Ventures Lab created a working prototype of their Photonic Fence to detect mosquitoes flying at a distance and shoot them down using lasers. The basic components came from inexpensive consumer electronics (e.g., laser printers, Blu-Ray disc writers, camcorders, and video game consoles).

The Photonic Fence would comprise posts up to 100′ apart with infrared LEDs, retroreflectors, and cameras mounted on each one. Software — lots and lots of software — would monitor the cameras’ outputs for shadows caused by insects flying through the infrared vertical planes between the posts. A nonlethal laser then illuminates the intruding bug, and determines its size and how fast its wings are beating to distinguish a variety of bugs (e.g., mosquitoes, butterflies, bumblebees…). The sex of a mosquito can also be ascertained because females are larger than males and have slower wingbeats. “This is useful because only female mosquitoes bite humans.”

Having done all that and establishing a valid target, the system runs safety checks to make sure no unintended object is in view, and then activates a second, more powerful laser to zap the mosquito, as shown above.

Videos of mosquitoes getting zapped by the system are available aplenty (here, for example).

Backyard Star Wars [IEEE Spectrum]
Malaria [Intellectual Ventures Lab]
Short-Circuiting Malaria [Newsweek]

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13 Responses to It’s Just Cool: Lasers Zap Mosquitoes

  1. BigEdJr says:

    Can some one get a me a fricking laser!!!

    Actually that is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I really want one.

  2. Old Coot says:

    Me too, me too!

  3. Greg A. says:

    I would pay a very large sum of money for one of those.

  4. Toolhearty says:

    I want one, too, but I’d be afraid that, right after I got it, Skynet would become self-aware…

    Ow! Hey, cut that out! Ow! I am not a freakin’ mosquito!

  5. BG says:

    The most important part is that it doesn’t zap beneficial insects. The common zappers you see now kill way too many beneficial insects to be worth it. If this can kill just the mosquitoes and pest flies it would be worth its weight in gold (of course I wouldn’t be purchasing one then).

    I can also see its use around barns where flies are a problem.

  6. Toolhearty says:

    BG Says:
    The most important part is that it doesn’t zap beneficial insects. The common zappers you see now kill way too many beneficial insects to be worth it…

    That’s what used to annoy me about the old bug zappers. Guy a few doors down had one that he kept on continuously from about May to November. Zit, zit, zit, all night long. The only really objectionable insect (wasps aside*) is the skeeter and, so far as I know, they aren’t attracted by the light of the zapper. In fact, the zapper was probably killing off a fair number of skeeter-eaters.

    * – note: wasps are exempted because they are at least pollenators

  7. Shopmonger says:

    So after 200 million dollars.. the Star Wars program finally brings us something we can use on earth….

    This is truly innovative, maybe it can be varied alter to keep deer out of the roses, and the bears from sitting on my car (they eat sitting on the hood of my car 3-4 times a week.)


  8. Mark says:

    Geee, what could go wrong….
    Frank, Frank is that you? I can’t see!

  9. kevin says:

    Are they waterproof , and is there a kit for mounting one on the sharks in the tank at my evil lair?….Ha Ha…all kidding aside I bought a mosquito magnet a few years back and all it caught were mosquitoes, by tens to hundreds of thousands. Last year I didn’t use it at all cause I wiped em out in my yard. May have to use for a month this year just to get the first hatch.

  10. Cameron Watt says:

    It’s a very neat idea, but I think somebody has too much free time…

    This system makes me think of that scene in that first movie they made of The Andromeda Strain where Hall gets shot in the cheek with a laser. I’m cringing as I think about it while typing this out.

  11. DanS says:

    Wouldn’t deet be a cheaper solution?

  12. Mr Paranoia says:

    does targeting software and hardware can be adjusted to work on bigger targets like humans?
    this is one step closer to terminator.
    be scared.

  13. Steve says:

    I think I will stick with a bat box and all the little birdies to do their job. And lots and lots of Skin So Soft repellent.

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