Shooting Mosquitoes with Frickin’ Lasers


The Wall Street Journal just did a front page article about what we call the “photonic fence.” It is a system that finds mosquitoes flying around, identifies them by wingbeat frequency, and then shoots them out of the sky with a laser. The idea decends from Reagan era “Star Wars” which basically tried to do the same thing for missiles. Here’s a great quote by Jordin Kare:

“We like to think back then we made some contribution to the ending of the Cold War” with the Star Wars program, Dr. Kare says. “Now we’re just trying to make a dent in a war that’s actually gone on a lot longer and claimed a lot more lives.”

As always, the reinterpretation by various blogs is more amusing:

Gizmodo – Badass Scientists Prepare Anti-Mosquito Laser
Engadget – Scientists shoot down malaria-carrying mosquitoes with frickin’ lasers
Information Week
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  1. Posted June 25, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Machine vision and lasers — what could go wrong? :P

    Seriously though — was wondering about such a thing to burn (not kill, just deter) raccoons and birds getting too close to my pond.

    (Part of that could be as reactive as a hypothetical “star wars defense”, since birds could dive on the pond from above…)

    Very cool idea!

  2. Fernando
    Posted July 17, 2009 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    I guess it will damage other insect species like bees, bery good for nature. Unless you will use it in a window, outside will be dangerous for the rest of insects.

  3. desperado
    Posted July 22, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Good idea! But how much powerful are the lasers? And how do you make that with the frequency?
    regards from austria

  4. Posted November 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Very Cool!

  5. William
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Some people can’t be bothered with reading up on it before posting. ie Scott Doty and Fernando. The thing can even tell the difference between male and female of the particular species.

    I however would like it to target things like the biting gnats, flies and other biting/disease caring bugs. Is there a set of plans and open source code so that if development isn’t continuing that I could experiment 8)

  6. Killer Bee
    Posted February 12, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    House flies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suffered with a damn fly in my house thinking, “I wish someone would invent a laser that could blast you out of the air.” The pure entertainment alone would be worth the price.

  7. Josh
    Posted February 13, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I live in Florida and during the summertime there are at least 8 mosquitos buzzing about my room at any point during the night, they are abslutely unbearable. If IV could market an indoor version that wouldn’t kill me in my sleep or shoot me in the eyes, I would definitely buy this product.

  8. Posted February 16, 2010 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Having spent a short time in a Malarial zone part of the world, I would happily lend my support to this project. No more lung-choking sprays, less electricity spent on ineffective home vapour systems, a little entertainment ;)

    I’d love to know a little more about how this invention could be commercialised, especially if it could be done in such a way to proacticely support parts of the world that desperately need it for disease control.

  9. W Martin
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    One question – When are you going to start selling it?

  10. Balázs Hajós
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Very good idea! When it can be buyed, and approximately how much it will cost?
    Best wishes from Hungary

  11. Zersk
    Posted March 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Someone’s been reading xkcd…

    This sounds really awesome, by the way.

  12. michalchik
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Watch the mosquitoes evolve quickly to resist it. I am guessing they’ll change their wing-beat frequency and flight patterns, but who knows, maybe they’ll get shiny. Evolution is hard to compete with.

  13. Posted April 15, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Excellent…anything that kills mosquitoes is a step forward for us. There is a company in Colorado that is also contributing to the fight against malaria. They are using ontological engineering to track and map the disease as well as our variouis efforts to eradicate it. TerraFrame has received considerable global support for their efforts.

  14. Edward
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Mmm, evolution evolving in this context is very easy to compensate. It’s chemical evolution that’s hard because it takes millions of dollars and years of research designing a precision chemical that affects only the target, which can be defeated by a single enzyme change in the target insect. This kind of evolution is very easy to counter. Change the beat frequencies it targets. (change one number in the programming) Shinyness just means shoot it longer, but it’s highly detrimental to the mosquitoes without the laser, as it makes them more visible for their main predators.

    Don’t know how much energy it requires to justify its use beyond a cool toy, and how expensive it is to be able to be used in places which need it most.

  15. Timothy Lee
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    this is great technology and can be used in many ways,do the females seek blood only when they know they are pregnant,if so i believe i know a way to sterilize the males before the process starts,no chemicals,no residue ,no after effects.:)

  16. Nevyn Alive
    Posted November 3, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    This is way cool. now how can I get this set up to cover my entire house

  17. Posted August 20, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    have you tried setting multiple lasers on a rail . 100mw is not that much and the effective range questionable . a 100w would be a 1000 laser diodes ? 500 on each opposing post might be enough ..ha.and make the rails moveable up and down . a laser screen in a crisscrossing pattern . question is can you line up 500 laser diodes whithin 10ft ? and where and when the beams cross , the power may be doubled .
    oh yea.. don’t forget the safety thing ??

  18. Posted August 20, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    oh yea , this array might also be used in replicating a 3d image . the light from a single laser may not be visable unless it hits something . but when the beams cross???think of it as a way to reproduce a hologram w/o the film . holographic film to my knowledge is accually a glass plate with certain chemicals in it . a few companies have come into bussiness offering 3d photos of loved ones . the film was cheap the last time i checked “russia” and in full color able to store short term video .blowwing a kiss things of that nature . problem is the holo doesn’t last that long . the above may be away to skip the film and use a computer w/”veiwer perception point in mind to resolve the 3d tv thing . muliple arrays , multiple depth ,multiple resolution…the closest image being the subject..highest resolution i’m sure a computer could handle the rest..i make it sound so easy huh …yea right the more you know the more you need to know …i’m outa pocket for the patten attorney and lack the education but if you can use this and feel generous ??/ any rubber check would be nice..

  19. Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.

    Thanks for fantastic info I was looking for this info for my mission.

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