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Light barrier used to repel mosquitoes

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November 13, 2011

Anopheles Gambiae mosquito

Anopheles Gambiae mosquito

You're in the middle of a great chat with friends on a warm summer night, and then "ouch" a mosquito interrupts your conversation with a bite on your forearm. Experimental physicist Szabolcs Marka hopes to make this occurrence a thing of the past, but in this case it's not aerosol spray or roll-on-repellant keeping the bugs at bay, it's a wall of light.

Marka is working on a project that uses infrared light to form a barrier between humans and mosquitoes, as well as other common insects such as moths and wasps. The theory is that you can use light to form a wall that separates space. In a phenomenon not fully understood, the mosquitoes that are outside the wall seem blocked, as if by a semi-invisible fence.

"The mosquitoes are probably scared," Marka explained to Forbes. "They could go through the light barrier without getting hurt, but they don't. That's the beauty of it because you don't have to necessarily kill them. You just make them go away."

The technology is a simple one. A standard laser pointed in the direction of your choice to block the entryway to your home, or outdoor space. "Light is very easy to manipulate and shape to many geometrics with optics," says Marka.

Incidentally, laser-powered help might also be on the way for those who do want to put a dent in the mosquito population.

Szabolcs Marka was given US$100,000 in seed money for his idea in 2008, as well as a $1,000,000 donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation through the Grand Challenges Exploration grant.

The science has far-reaching implications in mosquito-ridden areas where malaria is prevalent. In Uganda alone, malaria is responsible for approximately 20-percent of all childhood deaths.

While a prototype for the mosquito repellant is probably several years away Marka's team is studying the effects of different types of light, as well as the intensity, color, and shapes that can ward off not only mosquitoes, but moths, wasps, and even bed bugs.

Cost figures don't exist just yet, but one would have to assume that simple laser technology wouldn't be cost-prohibitive.

Marka explains the project in the following Columbia University video:

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10 Comments

Living creature is very flexible to fit into it's environment. Mosquito is one of the oldest species living on the planet. Thus, they must have been deal with so many changes. I would wonder how long will this method be effective, in case it doesn't hurt human.

Quach Binh
14th November, 2011 @ 12:46 am PST

If light can scare off mosquitoes, it could mean they know they are hurt by it. Juxtapose that to the greenhouse effect and the sudden dying of lots of bee colonies and you might have an answer. Maybe the bees are being affected by a higher density of light from the sun and it has reached critical point. hummmm....

Daniel Lafontaine
14th November, 2011 @ 06:05 am PST

Given a diode emitter at the right wavelength and power emission, a GRIN lens could be devised to make conical or pyramidal walls from a point source.

Bob Ehresman
14th November, 2011 @ 09:09 am PST

@Daniel. Greenhouse effect has to do with heating. The hole in the ozone has to do with light, besides - the hole in the ozone scare was so 1990s.

Michael Lewis
14th November, 2011 @ 12:10 pm PST

Personally not too sure if this is a good idea, to block mosquitoes from biting people and animal, it's a natural thing and it'll cause a chain reaction in nature if we intervene like this. It's just like any other thing that people built for their good, but then everything else suffers.

Kirill Belousov
14th November, 2011 @ 01:19 pm PST

Naturally the first question is:

In a large space full of these mosquitos have any breached the infrared light barrier or any wavelength light barrier whose energy level is below cellular damage for insects and animals including human children.

If even one mosquito gets through then be assured its progeny will soon be more generally present.

Hope I'm wrong. I'd love to make the buzz and bite go bye bye.

attoman
14th November, 2011 @ 01:49 pm PST

Most welcome in India.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
15th November, 2011 @ 09:12 am PST

This man has done a great thing. He has managed to acquire $1,100,000 because he is doing a project on Malaria. This is better than solar research,money wise. I hope he spends the money wisely. It should keep him going for a long time. The main problem is not to stop the mosquito biting, but to eradicate it. This sounds like a master con to me.I wish I had thought of it

windykites1
15th November, 2011 @ 09:53 am PST

Looks great as a means of protection, but, in regards to eradication of certain parasitic bugs - wouldn't a genetically targeted virus do the job?

Renārs Grebežs
23rd November, 2011 @ 01:59 am PST

Is eradication of the mosquito REALLY such a desirable thing?

As insecticides are notoriously non-specific with regard to species, how many other useful and needed species will be eliminated along with the mosquito? Widespread spraying in the attempt to eradicate West Nile fever has resulted in crop losses due to the shortage of pollinaters. Is death by starvation to be seen as preferrable to death by malaria? The outcome seems pretty equal to me.

Surely the logical, and much less damaging, approach is vaccination? If there are no infected people for the mosqitoes to bite, and thereby become infected themselves, the disease will be eradicated while the insects survive.

Please excuse me if this runs contrary to H. Sapiens natural desire to solve problems by killing something.

A'Tuin
23rd November, 2011 @ 12:05 pm PST
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