Photonic fence

Remember when you thought a can of RAID was hi-tech? It’s the 21st century already and the modern way to zap bugs is the photonic fence. A photonic fence is nothing but a fancy name for shooting down mosquitos with a laser beam driven by closed loop fire control system. According to Intellectual Ventures, “malaria is both preventable and curable”. The mosquito is the disease. Meet the cure.


The root idea, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, was to see if there was a way to use lasers to destroy parasites. If a the wavelength could be tuned to the parasite’s characteristic vulnerability … well you’ve watched enough science fiction to know what’s coming next. The resarchers wanted to zap malaria parasites inside the bloodstream.

Not long ago, researchers discovered that hemozoin emits distinctive light signals whenever it is hit by an ultrashort, high-intensity laser pulse. Experiments with a femtosecond laser at the Intellectual Ventures Lab have confirmed this optical fingerprint of hemozoin. Our inventors have applied for patents on noninvasive diagnostic devices that could send brief pulses of laser light into blood capillaries in eye or skin. If the blood cells carry malaria parasites, the hemozoin inside them will send back light signals that give away its presence. …

Besides being optically active, hemozoin is very slightly magnetic. That opens another avenue for attacking the parasite. We’ve invented ways to magnetically shake or spin hemozoin crystals, rupturing the parasite’s innards enough to kill it.

And to keep people from getting malaria in the first place, well there’s the photonic fence. It sounds a whole lot more hi-tech than the methods I used in Africa back in the day which relied upon doses of Lariam, DEET insect repellent and of course, bug spray. Why with today’s technolgy, you’re almost sorry for the bug.


A completely novel invention, called a Photonic Fence, detects mosquitoes flying at a distance and shoots them down with lasers. Although this approach may sound high-tech (and indeed some of the inventors are veterans of the antiballistic missile program), the basic components needed for such a system largely exist already in inexpensive consumer electronics, such as laser printers, Blu-ray disc writers, camcorders, and video game consoles. The working prototype at Intellectual Ventures Lab was constructed almost entirely from parts purchased second-hand on eBay and similar websites.

Photonic fence then and now.

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