Laser-Based Mosquito Killer Demonstrated

The first public demonstration of laser-based anti-mosquito warfare was given at the annual TED conference. I had written about the first use of this device last March (see Laser Kills Mosquitoes Like Brin's Bee Zapper).

Nathan Myhrvold's company, Intellectual Ventures has assembled technology used in printers, digital cameras and projectors to shoot down mosquitoes by the hundreds in mid-flight.

After hundreds of mosquitoes (which were kept in the hotel bathroom until showtime) were released into a glass tank, a laser tracked their movements and slowly shot them down, leaving their carcasses scattered on the bottom of the tank. While the demonstration was slowed down for public viewing, Mr. Myhrvold said that normally the lasers could shoot down anywhere between 50 to 100 mosquitoes per second.

Mr. Myhrvold played a slow-motion recorded video that showed what happened to a representative mosquito. As the insect flew, a sudden light beam struck it, disintegrating parts of its body into a plume of smoke. It fell, even as its wings continued to beat...

The laser detection is so precise that it can specify the species, and even the gender, of the mosquito being targeted. “The women are bigger. They beat at a lower frequencies,” Mr. Myhrvold said.


(Laser light zaps mosquito)

Myhrvold credits a 2008 brainstorming session on killing malaria-bearing mosquitoes with the idea for a 'Star Wars-style' anti mosquito weapon.

SF fans credit David Brin, who wrote about a laser-based bee zapper in his 1990 book Earth:

At least the bee zapper was working. For years their hives had been under siege by Africanized swarms, seeking to take over as they had everywhere else in the area... But a few weeks ago Claire had found a net reference by a fellow in Egypt, who'd discovered that the African strain beat their wings faster than the tame European variety. Burrowing into archaic TwenCen military technology, he had adapted sensor-scanning designs from an old defunct project called "Star Wars..."

Like a glittering scarecrow, the cruciform laser system watched over her squat hives. When she had first turned it on, the surrounding fields had come startlingly alight with hundreds of tiny, flaming embers...
(Read more about Brin's bee zapper)

Note that Brin's bee-zapper also differentiates between insects based on their wing-beats.

Via NY Times; thanks to Winchell Chung for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/13/2010)

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