The Mosquito Laser Could Eradicate Malaria

Image credit: foreignpolicy.com
Image credit: foreignpolicy.com

Although some species of mosquitoes are relatively harmless, and are even a benefit to humans, for the most part, these small insects are a nuisance. They live on blood that they suck from vertebrates, including humans, thus transmitting viruses and diseases than can be deadly to humans as well as other animals, such as malaria, filariasis and yellow fever. Some even call them the most dangerous insects on Earth.

Although the malaria and disease-carrying mosquitoes are no longer an issue in developed countries, they continue to make victims in undeveloped nations. At the same time, pesticides or drugs no longer seem effective, as the mosquitoes are becoming resistant to them; therefore, a more efficient method of eradicating these insects were needed.

In order to stop the chances of humans becoming infected due to mosquito bites, astrophysicist Lowell Wood invented a device called the ‘mosquito laser’, meant to kill a large number of mosquitoes. While the original idea was presented in the early 1980s, it wasn’t until 2007 that Intellectual Ventures LLC started researching it further. Within a year since scientists from Intellectual Ventures followed up on Dr. Wood’s idea, mosquitoes started being shot down.

Thinking of ways to end malaria, Dr. Wood, who was also one of the architects of the Strategic Defense Initiative, came up with the idea of killing mosquitoes using lasers. Originally, the idea included laser technology inspired by the SDI, but modified for insects. Since mosquitoes are more and more resistant to pesticides, this mosquito laser would take a far more direct approach. It would either kill the insects instantly, or burn their wings off, thus making them much less of a threat. At the same time, the design needed to minimise any damage caused to the environment or other species.

The device uses infra-red LED lamps mounted on fence posts that create a field of light. This field is monitored using charge-coupled devices (CCDs), which are a lot like something you’d find in regular digital cameras. Located on both fence posts, these CCDs detect any shadows that cross the field of light. When they detect an insect, it’s shot with a non-lethal laser, in order to determine the frequency at which the insects beats its wings, as well as its size. With this information, the device is able to detect what type of insect it is and even it’s gender, an important factor, since only female mosquitoes bite humans, causing malaria.

Jokingly named Weapon of Mosquito Destruction, the laser is effective at a range of 100 feet. While the laser is effective, Intellectual Ventures were not so quick to believe that it would eradicate malaria once and for all. In fact, they think that if several technologies were to be put together, they would be able to rid the world of malaria, without spending an entire nation’s budget on it.

Further reading:

Mosquito laser – Wikipedia

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