Computers & Mobile Craft & Design Science Technology
MAKE 23: How to shoot mosquitoes with lasers



Huge problem: Malaria kills millions, but you can’t just spray DDT anymore to wipe out disease-carrying mosquitoes (DDT also wipes out, oh, majestic bald eagles). What do do?

You could search for another toxin to spray. Or, if you’re 3ric Johanson at Intellectual Ventures Laboratory, you could invent a new gadget. A gadget that tracks mosquitoes and blasts them out of the air with lasers.

IVL’s Photonic Fence is audacious making, and only MAKE Volume 23 shows you exactly how they did it. In “Beam Weapon for Bad Bugs,” Johanson takes you inside IVL and explains their technology and how his team solved four key problems to make it work: spot the bugs, target ’em, identify ’em (only females mosquitos bite — you knew that), and then blast ’em in milliseconds.

Along the way you’ll learn about computer vision software, mirror galvanometers, mosquito wing-beat frequency, and how to make what can’t be made, when you want to do what can’t be done.

Bonus: Make: Online has an behind-the-scenes tour of Intellectual Ventures Lab and their ultimate maker workshop for electronics, photonics, machining, culinary arts, and more, at

From the pages of MAKE Volume 23:
MAKE Volume 23, Gadgets

This special issue is devoted to machines that do delightful and surprising things. In it, we show you how to make a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amp, a magic mirror that contains an animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine (as seen on The Colbert Report!). Plus we go behind the scenes and show you how Intellectual Ventures made their incredible laser targeting mosquito zapper — yes, it’s real, and you wish you had one for your patio barbecue. All this and much, much more.