‘Photonic Fence’ zaps mosquitoes with a laser

Thanks to research funding from Bill Gates and the United Nations, the laser is being eyed as a possible weapon in the war against malaria.

May 1st, 2009
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Thanks to research funding from Bill Gates and the United Nations, the laser is being eyed as a possible weapon in the war against malaria. Because popular remedies such as insecticides and mosquito nets have significant drawbacks to the environment and only work effectively at certain hours and when properly used, Jordin Kare, lead scientist at Intellectual Ventures (Bellevue, WA), is working with a small team to design a “Photonic Fence” that will distinguish mosquitoes from other useful insects and kill them quickly with the heat of a laser.

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The prototype fence uses a retroreflective backing to image mosquitoes 100 ft away from the high-speed CMOS camera sensor. “Compared to other insects, mosquitoes fly a few meters off the ground with particular speeds and trajectories, and are of a particular size with a characteristic wing-beat speed that can be distinguished by the imaging system for targeting by the laser, leaving other bugs intact,” says Kare. “Because only female mosquitoes carry malaria and have a different wing-beat frequency than males, even male mosquitoes could be spared.” While the specifics of the “kill” laser and optical system are still proprietary, an eye-safe laser is being investigated for obvious reasons. Kare is hoping to extend the technology to a 100-m-long fence for implementation near mosquito breeding areas and population centers. Contact Jordin Kare at jordink@intven.com.

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