Anti-insect laser gun turrets designed by Osaka College, anticipated to work on roaches too

Anti-insect laser gun turrets designed by Osaka University, expected to work on roaches too

You have never seen such an insect killer.

Considering we’re now in 2023, it seems like there has to be a better way to protect our homes from invading insects like roaches than a rolled-up magazine or noxious concoctions of chemicals. Sure, there have been some novelty gadgets over the years, but never anything that felt like the true future of pest control.

That might change soon, thanks a development by a research team at the Institute of Laser Engineering, Osaka University. The group, led by Professors Hiroshi Fuji and Kazuhisa Yamamoto, has found what may be the most efficient laser pest control system yet, which could one day make traditional pesticides obsolete.

▼ A look at how it works from the system perspective

Anti-insect lasers have been developed for over a decade, primarily with the aim of eliminating mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. However, their bodies are much smaller than those of most insects, and although they can be irradiated entirely by a laser pointed in their general direction, energy consumption for long-range shots and cost-efficiency remain an issue.

Not only that, in the case of insects that damage crops, their bodies are typically much larger than that of a mosquito and would therefore require a laser of proportionately larger size and intensity, making implementation all the more difficult. Take the tobacco caterpillar moth, for example; This two-by-three centimeter pest and the insatiable appetite of its larvae can destroy entire crops.

So what the team did was Find the weak points where the moth is most vulnerable to a laser beam. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these sites turned out to be the face and chest, or “thorax,” to use the more commonly used insect term. The next step was to Build a blue laser diode cannon that can target and lock onto these weak spots before firing a precision beam and killing the insect with a headshot like a little laser toting John Wick.

▼ A Tobacco Worm Moth killed in mid-flight in a puff of smoke

This could be a game changer, as the tobacco worm is notoriously resistant to pesticides. It is not limited to this one insect either. Using the same technique of finding cracks in their armor, the research team was able to knock down desert locusts as well, hitting them directly in the rib cage. They say it also has the potential to work on household pests like flies and roaches.

With this technology, the concern of insects becoming resistant to pesticides would be eliminated, and the harm such chemicals do to other wildlife and the environment would also be eliminated. In addition, efficiently controlling pests near agricultural land could save an estimated 26 trillion yen (US$200 billion) in product worldwide and prevent food shortages.

▼ How it would look from our point of view

It was enough to make many online users fantasize about the potential benefits and pitfalls that this type of technology could bring to the world.

“It’s a bit like Star Wars.”
“Can it really handle the thousands of bugs flying around on a farm?”
“I wonder if in the future the insects will become laser-safe…or maybe learn to shoot back.”
“That’s pretty awesome.”
“Farms are huge, so I still think the cost would be too high to cover anywhere.”
“You could probably mount it on a drone to cover more ground.”
“It’s like the system in the Castle of Cagliostro.”
“It depends on what range the thing would have.”

The cost of protecting an entire field with these lasers may still be an issue, but the ability to ensure precise, one-shot kills can help bring it down significantly. While that proves to be a major hurdle, they could still be suitable for home use to seek out and exterminate everything from mosquitoes to roaches. And nothing says “the future” quite like a laser tower in my kitchen, killing cockroaches with extreme prejudice before I can even realize they’re there.

Source: Osaka University, Institute of Laser Technology, Itai News, Netlab
Image above: YouTube/Osaka Expo
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