Researchers demonstrate mosquito laser in action (w/ Video)

Feb 15, 2010 by Lisa Zyga report
An image of a mosquito being zapped by a laser. Credit: Intellectual Ventures.

In the video below, you can watch what happens to a mosquito at the instant it's zapped by a laser, all in slow-motion. Nathan Myhrvold’s company, Intellectual Ventures, has been developing the mosquito laser since 2008. Myhrvold recently demonstrated the device at the annual TED conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Myhrvold, a former Microsoft chief technology officer, and other researchers designed the mosquito laser as a method for combating malaria, which is caused by a parasite carried by . One of the team’s inventors, astrophysicist Lowell Wood, had helped design the Cold War-era Star Wars laser shields in the 1980s, which partly inspired the mosquito laser concept.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Video clips of mosquitoes being killed by lasers. If played in real time, these segments would be roughly 1/10th of a second long. Credit: Intellectual Ventures.

The device originated from a challenge by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seeking a way to reduce the one million deaths caused each year from malaria. As Myrhvold noted at the conference, a child dies of malaria every 43 seconds.

Although early prototypes of the mosquito laser worked, they were too expensive for use in developing countries. In the latest version, the mosquito laser is assembled from commonly availably technology. In fact, Myhrvold and his team found all the components on Ebay, which included parts from printers and projectors, and the zoom lenses from digital cameras. He estimates that the new version could cost as little as $50 to manufacture, depending on volume.

During his demonstration, Myhrvold released hundreds of mosquitoes into a glass tank. A laser tracked their movements and shot them down one by one, leaving their carcasses on the bottom of the tank. Myhrvold said that the lasers could shoot between 50 and 100 mosquitoes per second.

Besides being fast, the laser is accurate, too; it can distinguish butterflies from mosquitoes, and can also tell the difference between male and female mosquitoes. Only female mosquitoes, whose wings beat at lower frequencies, bite humans.

“You could kill billions of mosquitoes a night and you could do so without harming butterflies,” Myhrvold said.

Ultimately, the goal is to use the lasers to create protective fences around homes and clinics, as well as in agricultural fields as a substitute for pesticides.

Explore further: Hendersons introduce hoverboard and a future beyond wheels

More information: -- IntellectualVenturesLab.com
-- Scientists Build Anti-Mosquito Laser: www.physorg.com/news156423566.html

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User comments : 42

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Objectivist
2.8 / 5 (14) Feb 15, 2010
In 2138 the first of a new breed of wingless mosquitoes is born. And sometimes -- during the night, if you listen very carefully, you will hear the faint sound of Darwin laughing in his grave.
antialias
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 15, 2010
I need this with USB support, joystick control and video interface and I'll be sitting out back zapping bugs all night.
overmind
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 15, 2010
Greenpeace is going to eat the inventors alive.
fourthrocker
4.8 / 5 (9) Feb 15, 2010
I love it. I thought about this years ago but I didn't think that tracking them was feasible. I would like to know how they're doing it. It probably will never be available here. They either won't be able to get it approved because it could hit someone in the eye or if they do some ass will sue them within 6 months saying it caused their cataract or neutered their pet Gerbil.
wanderenvy
Feb 15, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
fixer
5 / 5 (4) Feb 15, 2010
Brilliant bit of kit, I wonder if it can be tuned to houseflies or cockroaches?
I suppose the laser only fires if it has an unhindered shot and can sense and avoid animals.
Some info on range would be good.
Bloodoflamb
5 / 5 (3) Feb 15, 2010
Brilliant bit of kit, I wonder if it can be tuned to houseflies or cockroaches?
I suppose the laser only fires if it has an unhindered shot and can sense and avoid animals.
Some info on range would be good.

Did some snooping. A more thorough article can be found here: https://intellect...e_id=563
zbarlici
1 / 5 (4) Feb 15, 2010
yeah i think the range on this tech is very limited otherwise it would have been mentioned. I think the different insects flat their wings at different rates and this is how they can single out specific insect types.

The effective range of this device would have to be at least 10 feet, in order to be used in a typical bayard patio scenario; where ppl are sitting around a table and barbecue,. And even so you would probably need to get two or three of these devices.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT EFFECTIVE RANGE?
Bloodoflamb
5 / 5 (3) Feb 15, 2010
yeah i think the range on this tech is very limited otherwise it would have been mentioned. I think the different insects flat their wings at different rates and this is how they can single out specific insect types.

The effective range of this device would have to be at least 10 feet, in order to be used in a typical bayard patio scenario; where ppl are sitting around a table and barbecue,. And even so you would probably need to get two or three of these devices.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT EFFECTIVE RANGE?

If you go to the linked website, they list the range between two of these devices as being 100ft.
Doug_Huffman
3 / 5 (8) Feb 15, 2010
"The energy levels and light frequencies used are not capable of damaging human tissue,..."
zbarlici
5 / 5 (4) Feb 15, 2010
OH WOW WHERE DO I BUY ONE!!! I live in manitoba, canada... area is all clay and retains water puddles everywhere so theres a real bad mosquito situation pretty much every summer because of that.. i can`t even enjoy a mid-summer barbecue outside because of that. Most days late summer even when its sunny i cant get a break from them its that bad.
Bloodoflamb
5 / 5 (1) Feb 15, 2010
OH WOW WHERE DO I BUY ONE!!! I live in manitoba, canada... area is all clay and retains water puddles everywhere so theres a real bad mosquito situation pretty much every summer because of that.. i can`t even enjoy a mid-summer barbecue outside because of that. Most days late summer even when its sunny i cant get a break from them its that bad.

I doubt it has been commercialized yet. Sounds like they're still in the prototyping stage. But given enough interest, we could see a commercially available product in a relatively short time period.
JLMEALER
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 15, 2010
Cool laser... But DDT was a really good thing until someone stopped making enough money from it. Sad, because a lot of people have died from outlawing DDT. Remember the peopel drinking it to prove how safe it is?
dan42day
1 / 5 (5) Feb 15, 2010
Bloodofamb, I read the article you linked and already see a problem. If Bill Gates had anything to do with it, then all the mosquitoes have to do is learn to wait until the device is downloading and installing an update. It seems to me that what really... wait, I'll get back to you after my PC reboots.
Newbeak
not rated yet Feb 15, 2010
They say there are safeguards to prevent accidental lasing of objects other than mosquitoes.I would still like to know if there is a danger of retinal damage from exposure to it.Maybe everyone at a BBQ where this thing is active should wear blue blocking glasses just in case?
Bloodoflamb
3.1 / 5 (7) Feb 15, 2010
Cool laser... But DDT was a really good thing until someone stopped making enough money from it. Sad, because a lot of people have died from outlawing DDT. Remember the peopel drinking it to prove how safe it is?

All you need to do to see how harmful that DDT is overall is to read its Wikipedia article. It may not be acutely toxic to humans, but it sure as hell wreaks havoc on birds as well as aquatic life. I don't think I need to go over the sort of massive impact that environmental damage can have on populations of people that are extremely dependent on the stability of the ecosystem which they are a part of.
Milou
1 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2010
Now if we can develop the same type of laser bug killer for car windshield or front of car?
jimbo92107
5 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2010
That was so much cooler than the Air Force laser shooting down a missile..!
fixer
5 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2010
Thanks for the extra info, the IVL people did miss a point though.
It was reported on physorg some weeks ago that mossies are attracted to CO2, so that would be the logical bait.
Lure the mossies into range and ZAP!
Couple it with a conventional electronic bugzapper and enjoy a pest free bar-b-que.
For high infestation areas, a solar powered unit on every lamppost around a town or village should do the trick.
Roj
3 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2010
OH WOW WHERE DO I BUY ONE!!! I live in manitoba, canada
There are a number of insects and small animals that are natural predators of the mosquito.
http://www.mosqui...ors.html
SmartK8
not rated yet Feb 16, 2010
I saw it on TED 2010. Funny stuff. It has recognition software which is based on sound vibrations of a fly. They determine it's weight, and basically a type of fly. If correct target shoot, if not sure do nothing. I guess it can be calibrated to kill specific insect for the area, not only mosquitos. It's meant to be a house surrounding system. Like a force shield of kind (at least that's what a picture in the presentation shown). You can adjust a speed of killing (heh). I hope it could be calibrated for a wider range of insects, as I hate them all - in my flat that is.
Bob_Kob
2 / 5 (5) Feb 16, 2010
This seems unnecessarily complicated, what with software to recognise the mossies and the motors required to aim it.

I remember a device invented a while ago, basically it was a vacuum with a bag that attracted the mosquitoes by also spraying co2 in the area. Apparently the device could catch kilos of them just in the course of a nights work. Seems a lot simpler than shooting lasers...
diva4d
not rated yet Feb 16, 2010
Yes Bob, but shooting lasers is just so much freaking COOLER... I'm buying one as well.
Bloodoflamb
2 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2010
This seems unnecessarily complicated, what with software to recognise the mossies and the motors required to aim it.

I remember a device invented a while ago, basically it was a vacuum with a bag that attracted the mosquitoes by also spraying co2 in the area. Apparently the device could catch kilos of them just in the course of a nights work. Seems a lot simpler than shooting lasers...

Whatever you're talking about only reduces the LIKELIHOOD of getting bitten. The above device virtually GUARANTEES that you will never get bitten.
dacarls
not rated yet Feb 16, 2010
I worked on chemical attrqactants for mosquitoes for several years. It's not simple to get wild insects into a Plexiglas(r) box like this. Now- if a green laser can heat them up like this....Hmmmmm.
Probably better for cockroaches under your sink- just kill everything that moves- when the door is closed! And insects cannot become resistant.
Bloodoflamb
not rated yet Feb 16, 2010
I worked on chemical attrqactants for mosquitoes for several years. It's not simple to get wild insects into a Plexiglas(r) box like this. Now- if a green laser can heat them up like this....Hmmmmm.
Probably better for cockroaches under your sink- just kill everything that moves- when the door is closed! And insects cannot become resistant.

What? You don't need to get the mosquitoes into a box for this thing to work.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2010
And insects cannot become resistant.

Sure they can. The laser works at a particular frequency. You'll just be selecting for those critters that don't absorb enough energy at that ferquency. Or you'll select for smaller females that beat their wings faster (thus making them indistinguishable from males)

Don't underestimate evolutionary pressure.
hoaxkiller
5 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2010
I have seen how the system is works! :D
Here is the link:
http://www.youtub...WpFPkYrk
Auxon
3 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2010
All you need to do to see how harmful that DDT is overall is to read its Wikipedia article.

That's the problem with people today.
Parsec
4 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2010
This seems unnecessarily complicated, what with software to recognise the mossies and the motors required to aim it.

I remember a device invented a while ago, basically it was a vacuum with a bag that attracted the mosquitoes by also spraying co2 in the area. Apparently the device could catch kilos of them just in the course of a nights work. Seems a lot simpler than shooting lasers...


Who cares how complicated it is if its cheap and easy to maintain? An IC chip is incredibly complicated inside but I don't see anyone giving up computers.

Once this become commercially available, everyone will be purchasing them as bug zappers and the volume will go thru the roof.
fixer
4 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2010
It makes better sense than spraying everything with bug killers and should reduce the amount of chemicals in the air.
This will really hurt the companies that make and sell insecticide.
Pity it can't zap termites.
jonnyboy
1 / 5 (5) Feb 20, 2010
This seems unnecessarily complicated, what with software to recognise the mossies and the motors required to aim it.

I remember a device invented a while ago, basically it was a vacuum with a bag that attracted the mosquitoes by also spraying co2 in the area. Apparently the device could catch kilos of them just in the course of a nights work. Seems a lot simpler than shooting lasers...

Whatever you're talking about only reduces the LIKELIHOOD of getting bitten. The above device virtually GUARANTEES that you will never get bitten.


I don't think either of you understands the problem with Bob's solution. It ATTRACTS mosquito's !! It doesn't matter how many you trap, if you are attracting every mosquito in the neighborhood you are going to get bit more, NOT LESS. More to the point, did anyone see where they published a list of parts and a set of plans?
gwrede
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 20, 2010
I don't see the point in not shooting male mosquitoes.
Wasabi
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2010
@Qwrede

Three reasons not to: First, males don't bite humans and thus can not transmit. Second, killing the females greatly reduces the ability to breed successive generations (less females for the males to breed with). Thirdly, killing a non-threat consumes considerably less energy which is especially important in developing countries where this is initially targeted and where maximum efficiency is crucial to affordability and wide adaptation.
fixer
1 / 5 (1) Feb 20, 2010
Wasabi - I agree but it would make sense to combine a CO2 lure with the laser to clean up a larger area and also if the laser goes inoperative it provides a backup.
Dismay
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2010
I feel there is a difference between devices that attract them and ones that just kill the ones that are in the area. It you are attracting them you are killing insects that would have otherwise not come into the area, unnecessarily affecting the ecosystem/ food supply for natural predators. It's like the difference between shooting a thief in your home, or putting an ad on craigslist that says free stuff at your address, and shooting everyone that comes to your door.
nick7201969
5 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2010
At $50, the price would be comparable to your good old backyard hang-o-lantern electric bug zapper.

This new laser gun method has the advantage of cherry picking for mosquitoes specifically. The hang-o-lanter would zap every conceivable flying insect causing a burden to clean up all mound of moths after each night.

The laser also doesn't require chemical attractants.

I just wonder about its energy usage. Do we have to get a long cord extension like the hang-o-lantern too?

fixer
not rated yet Feb 21, 2010
Dismay, you miss the point.
The whole idea is to be rid of malaria for good without indiscriminate slaughter of the entire insect population.

This is the ideal tool!
jsa09
5 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2010
wonder if we can mount one on hunter killer drones?
Noodle_Naut
1 / 5 (4) Feb 22, 2010
Ought to work great until it shoots the one on your nose ;)

Obviously it needs to check the background to insure it is not moving but then other things move in the wind like leaves. The pests can fly only where there is stuff moving behind them. Hmm, if it can identify our infrared that might work.

Kill all the mosquitoes, flies, and termites. Three species are made extinct every day why can't a few be the bad boys. Get those fleas too...you never know when the plague may make a comeback or something that uses the same vector. A little smaller target but should be doable. Of course it would shoot all the brownie crumbs and any other dark crumbs that fall in midair while you are munching. Still small price to pay. Well, that is fixable too they could just shoot them when jumping up...brownie crumbs don't fly up unless you are a cookie monster.

Fabric of life...Bunk! Ask any mammal we don't need these varmints.

I can see it now..."Save the mosquitoes!"..."Save the mosquitoes!"
fixer
Feb 22, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
CreepyD
not rated yet Feb 22, 2010
We don't have a bad mosquito problem here but I still want one of these lasers!
NameIsNotNick
not rated yet Feb 22, 2010
Cool laser... But DDT was a really good thing until someone stopped making enough money from it. Sad, because a lot of people have died from outlawing DDT. Remember the peopel drinking it to prove how safe it is?

All you need to do to see how harmful that DDT is overall is to read its Wikipedia article. It may not be acutely toxic to humans, but it sure as hell wreaks havoc on birds as well as aquatic life. I don't think I need to go over the sort of massive impact that environmental damage can have on populations of people that are extremely dependent on the stability of the ecosystem which they are a part of.

I'm not taking sides on this (insufficient info) but I have read that a complete DDT ban may have been a case where, due to inexact science, the Environmentalists got it wrong. In any case I suppose it has become immaterial because mosquitoes have become increasingly immune...
fixer
not rated yet Feb 22, 2010
The point is, mossies are a real menace, but it's not just one species.
Ross river virus is carried by a different species. then there's the Tse Tse fly too.
You must be able to tune it for different species or people will buy them and modify them to suit.
MonkeyBoy
Apr 05, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.