Mosquito Laser Death Grid Is Just What It Sounds Like

Mosquitoes suck. Quite literally. [Allen Pan] lives in an area where they’re so thick in the air, regular methods of killing them fail to put a dent in their numbers. Thus, he set about building a solution so dangerous we wouldn’t want to be within a mile when it’s turned on. 

[Allen] was inspired by a TED talk from over a decade ago that involved targeting flying mosquitoes with high-powered scanning lasers. This technology never really came to fruition, and raised many questions about laser safety and effectiveness.

Testing the idea with only two mirrors installed.

This solution keeps the lasers, but goes a slightly different route — two 10-watt lasers bounced between multiple mirrors to create a laser death grid. It goes without saying that 10 watt lasers will blind you near instantly even at great range, and can burn skin and cause all manner of other horrors. Bouncing them around with mirrors and waving them about at mosquitoes is a really poor idea when even incidental exposure can do real harm.

Indeed, the laser is so powerful that it burns holes in the mirrors [Allen] used in early testing. It was around this time that [styropyro] was brought in to help ensure everyone involved got through the project with their eyesight intact.

[Allen]’s crew wears laser safety goggles when operating the horrifying handheld device, which mitigates some risk. The team also quickly notice beams escaping from various directions, due in part to the holes burned in their clothes. Electing to wrap the device in a heatproof blanket to avoid accidentally dazzling any nearby pilots was an obvious idea but turning the device off and destroying it would have been smarter.

Sadly, despite looking like the coolest cyberpunk weapon we’ve seen in years, the device doesn’t even kill mosquitoes very effectively. The bugs largely avoided the device, and only a few that flew directly into a beam ended up being cooked. The whole time watching the video, we feared someone dropping the rig, leading to a 10-watt beam bouncing off and striking some poor innocent bystander.

Powerful lasers are cool and useful things. Try and use them responsibly.

37 thoughts on “Mosquito Laser Death Grid Is Just What It Sounds Like

  1. I remember an article from somewhere years ago, where a device that looked a bit like a google home, could be put in a room. The device then scans the room constantly, looking for mosquito’s. When it finds one, it tracks it and kills it with a laser. The device was supposed to be safe enough to be placed in a room with people, pets etc (unless you have mosquito’s as pets). It seemed like a great solution as the laser was only on when it actually found one. I’d love to put a whole bunch of those things in my house as I’m unable to sleep if there’s a mosquito anywhere close to me.

      1. If you look up mosquito laser on wikipedia it has a fair amount of details about the version that Intellectual Ventures had proposed and done some research on. (I don’t put links in hackaday posts because it seems to delay the reply showing up for like 10 hours, so you’ll have to go find it.) I was under the impression they had a more or less working version of it, that they were looking to license because they’re a bunch of patent vampires, but it looks like they may have oversold its effectiveness.
        I was just trying to use a 2 watt laser to kill japanese beetles last week, and in my short experience, it takes longer to kill them than it takes them to realize what’s happening and move out of the beam, so unless you have galvos and a tracking system, or a LOT more power, killing small beetles, at least, doesn’t seem like it’s viable.

  2. It’s bad enough when he carelessly burns his own pants on the reflected beam in the beginning. But shooting the beam at the other person’s abdomen “for fun” later on, while absolutely having learned about the dangers and consequences by that point in time, is indiscutibile. What a moron. That should have definitely earned him a smack in the face.

    1. The oblivious and dangerous incompetence demonstrated in this video makes me wince, though I’m sure it will get him sweet sweet karma from the intertubes. I hope he has a remaining eye to enjoy it with once he finds out about uncertified laser goggles.

  3. I love how [styropyro] was brought in for safety. He already looks like like a deranged, mad scientist as it is. Having said that he always warns us of the dangers and that we shouldn’t be messing around with powerful lasers without protection or even at all so I’ll give them that.

      1. The mosquito laser that Intellectual Ventures designed used a vision system that looked at the wing flap frequency to target Anopheles mosquitoes while ignoring bees and wasps, much less cats.
        Cool idea, if they had developed it as an open source project rather than purely as yet another bunch of patents to license and make money from.

  4. I remember about 20 years ago a guy made a laser flying bug killer that used a 9Ghz low power Radar to track the insects, and target them. There was a single laser that would be steered and fired at the bug to take it down. It worked on flies, bees, yellow jackets, and mosquitos.

  5. I always find it amusing how the warnings for lasers are so different from the warnings from equivalently dangerous objects. By that I mean, all the warnings seemingly deliberately don’t explain very much about how to understand and mitigate the danger. They just say wear whatever kind of laser glasses that someone sells you and you’ll be fine, which is sometimes not enough and sometimes too much. For one thing, for a given wavelength and intensity (not power), the specific color of glasses and level of reduction you need will differ. And if they’re properly rated and you understand the rating, then non-laser-specific eye protection can be better than cheap laser goggles with dubious ratings.

    5mW visible light lasers are typically considered safe because a child or idiot can point it at your face and you will blink and look away without being permanently hurt. Much like looking at the sun, a reflection of the sun, or a focused spot from concentrating sunlight with a magnifying glass is painful, but walking in sunlight is safe, the most harmful thing to do is look at the source directly or indirectly. If it’s refracted and reflected in repeatedly such as by bouncing off the glass and shiny surfaces of objects in a house, there’s too high a chance it comes back at the right angle to hurt you. But it takes a quite high amount of power to hurt you if the beam is not focused to a small point and it’s aimed at a diffuse / matte surface. It’d take a massive amount of power before the beam is powerful enough to hurt you by reflecting off of dust in the air and such, but there are pulsed lasers, so it’s not technically impossible.

    1. Also a thing that people fail to understand about laser safety goggles is that they’re a last-resort safety thing, not a preventative, especially when we’re talking 10 watts. Properly-functioning safety goggles work by absorbing the light energy, and that energy still has to go somewhere. Which is to say, it becomes heat, and 10 watts of energy concentrated into a tiny pinpoint will make it very hot, very fast. So you get, what, a second or two before the beam melts a hole and then hits your eye anyway?

      It bothers me how people treat goggles as all the prevention they need, meaning they probably get even less cautious about their safety. Like people who think their car’s traction control and airbags mean they can still take dangerous curvy mountain roads at 80MPH.

      1. Yes, the energy has to go somewhere.

        However, at a glancing exposure, even focused, you won’t get enough energy delivered to cause more than a surface blemish. At a sustained localized exposure, you get enough time to move head away, move beam away, switch the rig off, mitigate in other ways. Or even just close eye – burning through moisture-laden eyelid will take lots more energy.

        Goggles are not the Ultimate Protection. Goggles buy you time to react.

        Visible lasers are easy in this regard. You see the hit. Near-IR, that’s where the real danger lies. Diode ones, Nd:YAG. Er:YAG is easier, absorbed in water, won’t reach retina and the other structures are less difficult to repair with modern medicine. (Same for CO2.)

        Clothes, skin… at few to few dozen watts the damage is within permissible limits. Worst case, a hole and a small sexy scar. Yes, it hurts. But laser burns usually heal well. Eyes are where the protection has to be focused at.

        For CNC/engravers, another layer of protection is the beam focus. Past the focal point it diverges, and rapidly loses energy-per-area (which is where the danger lies – it’s not watts, it’s watts/mm2 – or joules/mm2 for pulsed). Try it, from a distance it’s just a flashlight, then as you get closer and the blue circle gets smaller it starts feeling warm, then uncomfortably hot, and if you go even closer you’ll get laser scarification, a form of aesthetic body modification. Some people are into that. Some even intentionally.

        I use a handheld blue laser, a bit past the focal point, for baking in marker dyes into surface of polyolefins. The translucent bottle surface passes the energy. The ink absorbs, heats, bakes in. The resulting marking won’t wash off.

  6. Version 10 should be impressive, lots of promise with what they have done so far. A polished circular ring and a single galvo (mirror on a speaker) would give you a fully scanned area. The trick is the entry point into the ring being as fine as possible. Tune the galvo movement well enough and it should not need an energy dump target where the beam exits the same entry point because all of the energy is lost into the circular mirror over a huge number of reflections.

    1. Another possibility, run on fractional power and detect reflections from the target. If present, and not just a stray dust grain, put in full power for a hundred milliseconds.

      Scanning has a problem with reducing the on-target dwell time and the corresponding energy delivery.

      Thought. A spinning-mirror laser-printer beam scanner. Tracking laser running continually at low power, for reflection detection. Full-power laser at a little angular offset, keyed to deliver pulse just to the target. Ignore targets that reflect for longer-than (too big, a head or a hand…) or shorter-than (a dust grain).

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