Despite their small size, disease-carrying insects, like mosquitoes and ticks, are known to wreak havoc on the health of human as well as animal populations. Thanks to a surprisingly innovative invention, there’s no need to fret anymore. Designed by a team from Washington-based Intellectual Ventures Laboratory, the new technology, known as Photonic Fence, is intended as a highly-specialized method of defense that kills these pesky bugs in less than a second using carefully-targeted laser beams.
The contraption, according to the developers, relies on a incredibly high-tech approach to identify, locate and annihilate flying insects almost instantaneously. Closer to a laser targeting system one might find in a sci-fi movie than an electric mosquito-zapping machine used in households, the Photonic Fence is capable of zapping pests and bugs without harming any animal or human being that lies in the beams’ path. Originally created to decimate malaria-causing mosquitoes, especially in poor countries, the technology has since been enhanced to control a wide variety of bugs and pests that affect the health of humans, animals and even plants. Unlike currently-available insect killing machines, the technique used by the Photonic Fence to identify its targets is actually quite ingenious.
The device, as the developers point out, zeroes in on the threat by calculating its wing flapping frequency, while also studying its size, shape as well as flight pattern. Following this, a specially-designed computer software helps the system recognize the insect, which is then destroyed with the help of a targeted laser blast. What is more, its uniquely advanced technology ensures that the laser beams are fired only when there won’t be any kind of collateral damage either to humans or animals. Speaking about the invention, which was described in detail in the Optical Express journal, 3ric Johanson, the head scientist of the team, said:
Used as a virtual fence, the Photonic Fence can be deployed as a perimeter defense around villages, hospitals, crop fields. Over time, the population of target insects inside the protected region would be decreased to the point of collapse.
The Photonic Fiber takes only around 100 milliseconds to spot and kill disease-carrying insects. The technology, the team believes, could be used in greenhouses and organic farms, where these tiny buggers are a common nuisance. Conventional pest control techniques often fail to protect crops and plants. Although more effective than such methods, chemical pesticides are believed to quite hazardous not only to plants, but also to the health of humans. In addition to its insect-killing abilities, the Photonic Fence provides detailed information as to the types of bugs and pests frequenting the area, the particular time during the day they generally appear and so on. Johanson added:
These areas are difficult to control for pests using organic means. A ‘Photonic Fence’ installation, which is inherently organic, could not only reduce the population of yield-reducing pests, but also inform the grower what kind of pests are present and when. Armed with this information, the grower could choose to use traditional insecticides in a precise, pin-pointed manner to stop the flying pests… Wherever a ‘Photonic Fence’ installation is deployed, we have situational awareness about the types of insects that are present, the insect density, and the time of day when insects are more prevalent, all on an up-to-the-second basis.
According to Johanson, if hundreds of thousands of these units are installed in a specific region, with each reporting back to a central data collection system, countries and states will be able to make better and more well-informed decisions when it comes to pest control and elimination. If everything goes according to plan, the team will be deploying the Photonic Fence to developing countries across the globe, in order to help reduce cases of mosquito-borne malaria. This, as the scientists point out, is of absolute necessity, since as many as 438,000 people died of malaria in 2015 alone.
The research was funded by the Global Good Fund. To learn more about the technology, head over to the Intellectual Ventures Laboratory.
Source: The Optical Society (OSA)