Die Bloodsuckers – Pew Pew

In a bid to combat malaria, Intellectual Ventures is developing a method of killing mosquitoes with lasers. The system is called a Photonic Fence and identifies the beasties by the frequency of their wing flapping (hey, that’s exactly how we know when they’re dive-bombing our heads). Once locked-on, it’s death to the filthy blood-suckers.

This story was latched onto by the gambit of news sources in the middle of 2009. Since then, the development team has added some pretty interesting info on their webpage. Last Feburary several videos of mosquito flight were posted. These were shot at 6000 fps using specially designed photographic rigs (probably much like this one) to make sure the shots were in focus. Now they’re slated to give a talk at the 2010 TED conference. The publication of these talks sometimes lags behind by several months so be patient. Watch the video after the break to get some abstract shots of the hardware being used; they’re not giving up the goods until the conference.

[Thanks Juan]

55 thoughts on “Die Bloodsuckers – Pew Pew

  1. Not wanting to dampen the high tech spirits, but…

    DDT is extremely effective against mosquitoes and lot cheaper than lasers. The banning of DDT was an act of unfounded idiocy (some b’crats were hoodwinked by junk science) that has cost millions of lives. Tens of thousands die of Malaria every year while billionaires think a few tents will help. DDT need to be put to use again, leaving the lasers for more valuable work.

  2. yes, this is old news by now.

    An one of the stupidest, most inefficient ideas in history. Let’s all give thousand-dollar laser mosquito killers to people who make less than a dollar a day rather than a) food, b) clean water c) basic healthcare and d) mosquito nets which do the job just as well.

    a glorious example of where tech has far escaped the needs of the real world.

  3. Geeze guys, this is cruel. I prefer to use these sprays that repel mosquitos, rather than mass killing hunderds of them. It works really well, and it does not kill.

  4. rofl it would be awesome to see some huge laser turret ripping around on top of a tall building to pick off all the mosquitos.
    Or in hat form.

    if this were classified as a ‘using tech for the sake of using tech/awesome’ then it’d be a lot cooler, because there’s no way that could ever be a valid mosquito solution.

    masking this sort of absurdly impractical project as a humanitarian thing annoys me.

  5. agreed derp. awesome project, but has no humanitarian potential. actually seems more likely to be adapted by govt. to a satellite platform from which to zap dissidents from space.

  6. @LuciusMare

    WTF is wrong with you, wanting to repel and not KILL these vermin? These pests kill and spread more disease around the world than anything.

    I live on the water, and in the spring,summer time, the swarms of these things are insane. Around here you can’t even stay outside a few minutes without being attacked by swarms of these things.

  7. I’ve actually seen Nathan Myhrvold giving his TED2010 talk about that device, which zaps mosquitoes out of thin air. It was a pretty neat device, probably quite expensive as a prototype but could be mass-produced fairly cheap. It is able to distinguish only a specific breed of insects, so non-malaria related insects can still pass through. No chemicals, no poisons. Hopefully that TED talk will be released soon, so anyone could see it…

  8. I love it.
    Back in the early 90’s I docuemtned a similar idea (and a lot more!) – using acoustic triangulation of the mosquito / bug – then skewing the emitters to focus the energy in that specific area. Great on paper, but no reward!
    I wish I was there – and more importantly wish I had the project marketing nouse to present these types of exploratory concepts wwhen I develop them. sigh.

  9. @ehrichweiss
    If I could get one of these for $100 I would buy it in a heartbeat. I don’t get a huge number of mosquitoes here (in the city), but they’re still annoying. Put it on the patio to take out the few that come in too close when I’m out there, or better, in the bedroom to take out that one mosquitoe that flies around your ear then lands somewhere, and you can’t find it.

  10. Damn! my plans, foiled.

    I figured put a IR laser, pulsed, and some sort of camera to look for moving bits. Small moving bits. And pew pew pew. Impractical, highly dangerous, but it would be quite amusing (assuming it could actually hit em).

  11. I think you guys missed the most obvious question of all concerning this project…

    Where in the world do you get the tens of thousands of mosquitoes that you would surely need to develop, test and demonstrate this thing!?!?!?

    Now that’s the business to be in!

  12. @steviest,

    They’ve tried distributing mosquito netting, but there was an unintended consequence: mosquito bars make excellent fishing nets. So they get used instead for gathering food. And nets don’t decrease the population of the little demons.

    So sometimes a very specific purpose built device is what is needed, although it still seems cheaper to hand out genuine fishing nets along with the mosquito nets.

    Of course this bug zapper has a dozen other problems: where will these poor people get electricity to power it? How will the production device fare against rain/mud/dust? Who will calibrate it? …

  13. If the device works by tracking them using that specific frequency, large scale deployment will probably cause most of the bugs using that frequency to be killed leaving those with other frequencies, after a few years it would be useless as mosquito’s would have evolved variable frequencies or worse, the frequency of the sound of a human snoring…

  14. when does the small woodland creature blasting model come out? jk but if this thing could target and blast mosquitoes at a long range, it would make for an awesome laser show off my back porch.

  15. lol@ TomSawyer .mid playing in the vid. reminds me of when Chuck played Missile Command to the Kill Screen to get the satellite access code or whatever, by listening to the music of the universe (RUSH) chuck vs tom sawyer. i cant find an awesome clip on youtube tho

  16. I’ll agree, using lasers to clear out skeeters seems overkill in most situations, but it looks neat. Tally ho!

    Feeding the trolls: Bob Easton is mistaken. DDT is effective, and is still used for that reason. But, like many substances, isn’t something you really wanna go back to spraying all over creation. It’s not junk science, the “millions of deaths” claim is bogus, and cutting back on it ain’t Rachel Carson’s fault. I’d advise a look at the Wikipedia entry.

  17. I personally cannot wait for this. Down in Louisiana, there are clouds of mosquitoes from February to November. I’m also wondering, could it be re-tuned to target other insects, namely Red and Orange wasps?

  18. I prefer a flame thrower. Kill te little bastards en-masse’ and get rid of all that pesky vegatation they breed in (Lawn grass that is well watered breeds mosquitos better than stagnant water.

  19. Kender,

    >The Zapper is better at least you can here them fry.

    Zappers don’t kill mosquitos unless they were to accidentally fly into them. Mosquitos aren’t attracted to light, they’re attracted to CO2. Unfortunately zappers probably kill many beneficial bugs and hardly any pests.

  20. As a guy who does a lot of welding & fab work in the midwest, I can tell you I’m way ahead of these people. Its just so entertaining to watch the horrified faces of other people in the shop when you pick one of the lil bastards off your arm with a plasma cutter…

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