The Photonic Fence is capable of identifying the discriminating characteristics of a mosquito including the wing beat frequency, shape, size, airspeed, etc.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 207 million cases of malaria and an estimated 670,000 malaria deaths occurred worldwide in 2012. Governments and aid agencies have set up many programs to distribute antimalarial drugs, insecticides, and bed nets in endemic areas, and these important tools have curbed malaria’s spread through the poorer parts of the world. However, existing measures have only held the epidemic in check. To have a real chance of conquering this disease, we need truly new approaches.

One way to break the malaria transmission cycle is to prevent the primary vector–the female Anopheles mosquito–from reaching the age where it can infect a healthy host. As part of IV’s Global Good program, our team at IV Lab is developing a device capable of identifying the discriminating characteristics of a mosquito (wing beat frequency, shape, size, airspeed, etc.), training a laser on it, and delivering adequate photonic energy to kill or incapacitate it.

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.

One potential use of the Photonic Fence is to create a virtual fence that detects insects as they cross its plane. When an invading insect is detected, our software is able to estimate the insect’s size and measure its wing beat frequency. Using this method, not only can the system distinguish between mosquitoes, butterflies, and bumblebees, but it can even determine whether a mosquito is male or female. This is important to know because only female mosquitos bite humans. 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.

Alternative Uses

Elements of the Photonic Fence could also be used to monitor and catalog the presence of mosquitoes, or other flying insects in a given area of interest. In this scenario, the device might be useful as a passive means of evaluating potential 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 insects.

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