At Intellectual Ventures Laboratory, we work on the very beginning stages of invention, nurturing an idea to prove that it can work and demonstrating its potential. We conduct research to prove the concept of an invention and refine the technology through early stage development. Although we don’t commercialize products ourselves, we play an important role in carrying inventions to a point where they can be licensed, sold or spun-out into separate companies.
Today, Lighting Science Group and Global Good announced a research agreement to collaborate on the development of next-generation light technologies for pest control. Based on Global Good’s Photonic Fence invention and Lighting Science’s light-control technology, the joint development effort will focus on field-ready prototypes that offer an environmentally-responsible alternative to chemical pesticides.
The Photonic Fence was first invented at Intellectual Ventures Laboratory to help Global Good address the spread of malaria in developing countries. A team of scientists and engineers at IV Lab significantly de-risked the Photonic Fence technology, designing and testing prototype devices to demonstrate the invention’s potential.
Through dedicated research and comprehensive experiments they have concluded that low cost lasers are a viable option as the lethal mechanism in a device that kills mosquitoes and could aid in the eradication of malaria. Additional studies with the Asian citrus psyllid – a carrier of a bacterium devastating to citrus trees, have demonstrated that the technology can be successfully applied to control insects besides mosquitoes.
Under the research agreement, Global Good will license its Photonic Fence technology to Lighting Science to manage product development in both vector control for malaria and derivative inventions in agricultural systems, with a goal to commercialize for developing and developed world markets.
The Photonic Fence is capable of identifying the discriminating characteristics of a mosquito (e.g., wing beat frequency, shape, size, and airspeed), training a laser on it, and delivering adequate photonic energy to kill or incapacitate it. Not only can the system distinguish between mosquitoes, butterflies, and bumblebees, it can even determine whether a mosquito is male or female (only female mosquitoes bite). Once the software establishes that the insect is a valid target, it tracks the mosquito in flight, runs a safety check to ensure no innocent bystanders are in view, and then activates a laser to zap the mosquito. The Photonic Fence could be set along the perimeter of clinics or other strategic areas to control mosquitoes without endangering humans or other animals.
This approach could offer a new tool for mosquito control that works without constant human attention and with no collateral damage to the local ecology. It would be used to complement bed nets, insecticides, and other existing vector control techniques.
The Photonic Fence could also be used to monitor and catalog populations of mosquitoes, or other flying insects in a given area. In this scenario, the device could help evaluate the effectiveness of new insect repellants, attractants, or other interventions. Outside of malaria eradication efforts, alternative applications for the Photonic Fence could include crop protection against pests or as a research tool to better understand insect behavior.