Mind Bomb 33: Weapon of mosquito destruction

Mind Bomb 33: Weapon of mosquito destruction
Photo Credit: Intellectual Ventures

Photo Credit: Intellectual Ventures

I'd previously written about how LG is utilising a laser to improve its camera's auto focus on the LG G3. That got me thinking, what else can we do with lasers apart from pretending to be in Star Wars.

Well, coincidentally, Star Wars was the inspiration for this marvellous use of lasers - A laser that kills diseases-carrying mosquitoes.

Yup, I said it was inspired by Star Wars because it was the film that inspired the Strategic Defence Initiative - a 1983 initiative that was meant to protect the United States from attacks by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles using ground-based and space-based systems. This are lasers meant for missiles, scaled down to insects.

The result: a concept known as a photonic fence, or better known as the WMD (Weapon of Mosquito Destruction) or I kill mosquitoes with freaking lasers!

The photonic fence concept will allow everything but disease carrying female mosquitoes past its invisible (infra-red barrier), it does not need a top because mosquitoes do not fly that high. / Photo Credit: Intellectual Ventures Lab

The photonic fence concept will allow everything but disease carrying female mosquitoes past its invisible (infra-red barrier), it does not need a top because mosquitoes do not fly that high. / Photo Credit: Intellectual Ventures Lab

Lasers meant for missiles, scaled down to insects.

The photonic fence is not actually a fence. But a layer made of infra-red LED lamps reflecting of poles to create an invincible security barrier which then detects anything that passes through it.

Cameras is then used to aim a non-lethal low powered laser to hit the subject. The laser is reflected and tells the system about the shape, size, frequency of the wing beat, and other information to identify the insect.

It is extremely accurate - not only does it focus on mosquitoes alone, but specifically the female mosquito species that carry the specific disease. For malaria it would be the Anopheles mosquito, and for dengue, it's the Aedes mosquito. This is because each mosquito species has a very unique wing beat frequency.

Then, it shoots a laser that has been calibrated to be powerful enough to just be able to burn mosquito tissue, but not enough to hurt other things, such as humans.

The slow motion capture that the Intellectual Ventures Lab released was beautiful.

The precision nature of the photonic fence It is the reason why it is so brilliant and its concept being more popular than other traditional methods currently used in the war against mosquitoes.

Methods such as pesticides caused too much collateral damage and have far less effective to justify the damage to other insects such as bees, humans and the environment. The photonic fence raises above senseless mass damage to solve a problem with sensible precision.

While it is estimated that this fence has about an 30 metre effective range, killing 50 to 100 mosquitoes in a second. And it is claimed that it will kill millions of mosquitoes and yet will never hurt a butterfly.

This may be seen as high-tech, and in fact it is. However, the equipment used to make up the fence is not sci-fi by any standards. It is almost like a mash up of street lamp light, reflective surfaces, basic cameras, and blue-ray lasers. I know, it doesn't make much sense like that, the video below would help.

(Read this article, if you want a really detailed read about the photonic fence)

This concept may had come under criticism for its original intent to be used in Africa, where malaria is still a huge cause of death, because of its potential cost of implementation, the fact that the concept has only been tested in labs with controlled settings, and that the photonic fences will requires quite a bit of power and electricity to function, something Africa is still lacking behind as a developing nation.

But with green energy gaining more momentum in terms of innovation, making the photonic fence into a viable solution may be reality even today, and much like technology's nature, reducing the cost of implementation is also key to its development!

Do you think we could employ this solution in Singapore? Deploying them in hot spots to kill the already mature Aedes mosquito while continuing with good practices such as the 10 minute Mozzie Wipeout practice.

Singapore's dengue epidemic is a real problem. With nearly 14,000 cases at the time of this writing, nearly 30 of which being reported on the day itself!


I truly give praise to the Singapore government and the man and woman who have worked hard to keeping a close eye on the development of mosquito clusters in our country. Given our environment, it's a war that we may never win, but one we must fight nonetheless.

You can get constant updates over at their website and their Facebook page.

Do share with your friends and family about our fight against the ever stubborn dengue problem and to always play our part, not only for Singapore, but for your loved ones.