DS902: The Lurator Device for controlling Insects using Infrared

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

What is a Lurator Device?
The Lurator is a device to manipulate insect behaviour though emission of infrared radiation. It is based on the Insect Infrared Sensing system (IIS) actually used by insects, and so offers an unprecedented degree of control.

The operation of the device is based on the fact that for many insects, the majority of their sensory inputs and outputs takes places through their antennas. These receive and may transmit electromagnetic radiation in the infrared bands.

Formerly it was commonly thought that much insect sensory systems operated through a type of smell, whereby they were able to detect molecules in the air. In particular, some were thought to be able to detect special chemical substances, called pheromones, given out by female insects and detected by the corresponding males over great distances (as much as 11 km).

Pheromones do exist, and have effects on the behaviour of animals, but not of insects. Animals have complex smell-detection systems, relying on large areas within their nostrils which have nerve endings within mucous linings (smell receptors), and the processing of signals from these receptors within special areas of their brains.

Insects have neither smell receptors within mucous linings, nor extensive brain areas for processing nerve impulses. Instead, they use an Insect Infrared Sensing (ISS) mechanism which can detect infrared emanations from target items, such as food sources, through their antennas.

In some cases these antennas may also be used to generate infrared signals to attract other insects, and it is this behaviour which was formerly ascribed to production of chemical pheromones. The situation is described in more detail in a companion article, LB701: Insects Live in an Infrared World [11].

The importance of IIS as the functional basis of the Lurator
The Lurator is a device which mimics the IISP (Insect Infrared Sensing Pattern) used by a particular insect, with the purpose of attracting or repelling it. Its great potential use comes because insects have no ability to discriminate about an ISSP source -- if an ISSP is received, it is like a switch. Hence the reason why moths will burn themselves up at a candle [3].

The ability of an insect in handling an IISP (infrared pattern) depends on its antenna. Insect antennas vary enormously between different types of insect. As the illustration shows, moths have far more detailed antenna structures than do butterflies, although the two groups are generally similar in form and behaviour.

Fig. DS902-F1. Antennas of moths, butterflies, and other insects. From [3].

A feature of antenna operation is that the wavelengths of the radiation they can handle is similar to the size of elements within the antenna. This is true of all types of antenna, not only insect antennas, but also radio and television receiving and transmitting antennas, including radio-telescopes.

Insects antennas are sensitive to infrared wavelengths. The infrared spectrum is quite broad, some 40 times as broad as the visible-light spectrum which is the basis of human sight.

Fig. DS902-F2. The Infrared and Visible-light spectrums. From [3].

Different insects use different parts, or combinations of different parts, of the infrared spectrum. Most insects also have eyes, using the visible spectrum. The very varied nature of the IISPs (Insect Infrared Sensing Patterns) used by different insect species is reflected in the very complex structures of some of their antennas.

Fig. DS902-F3. Electron-microscope images of a mosquito antenna. From [4].

As the pictures show, mosquitos have antennas structures embracing a range of scales. The antenna parts may be called sensilla (sensing structures). The following image shows the great detail which may be present. The twisted nature of some of the protrusions suggest that they may be able to detect polarized infrared.

Fig. DS902-F4. Structural detail of insect antenna sensilla. From [4].

There is more on the relationship between antenna structures and infrared wavelengths at LB701: Insects Live in an Infrared World [11].

How Infrared Sensing is vital for many insects
Insects use IISP, infrared sensing patterns, for many vital parts of their existence. One of these is searching for food. Everyone who has tried growing their own vegetables will have struggled against pests who fly in and leave eggs on the vegetable leaves, eggs which turn into caterpillars which voraciously attack the leaves.

Fig. DS902-F5. Caterpillars attacking cabbage leaf. From [5].

The usual defences are to spray the vegetables with chemicals which kill the caterpillars, or better to encourage predatory insects which eat the caterpillars. Both methods need continual and sustained action to be effective -- believe me, I know. This can be expensive and tedious, and success is by no means guaranteed.

A new weapon in the Caterpillar Wars
Insects are able to home in on the cabbage because it gives off an infrared pattern, an IISP, which can be detected by the butterfly or other creature seeking a home for their eggs. A Lurator, a mechanical source producing a similar IISP, will inevitably attract the same butterfly.

The Lurator can also be equipped with a killing device, say a microwave LED activated when the butterfly lands on the Lurator. Because the IISP emitted by the Lurator can be made stronger than that from the cabbage, and because the insect moves involuntarily towards it, the Lurator will be highly effective at protecting the cabbage.

Because the Lurator can be so effective, piling up the butterfly bodies, care may be needed that it does not cause ecological damage. Sometimes the pests which we would like to eliminate may have an unrealized role in the local ecology.

In addition, a Lurator may have too general an attraction, pulling in a wider range of insect species than just the one laying eggs.This possibility may be much reduced by fine-tuning the IISPs produced by the Lurator to be more specific to the target pest.

How an industry crashed
During the early 1970s, the Government of Western Australia started to implement a giant scheme to develop the north of the State by damming a river which had a big wet-season flow, the Ord. This created a huge lake, Lake Argyle, the reservoir for an irrigated agriculture scheme -- the Ord River Irrigation Area (ORIA).

Fig. DS902-F6. The Kimberly Region of Western Australia. From [7].

Various crops were tried for the ORIA, at various scales. According to [6], "Cotton was the original large-scale crop grown in the Ord, in the early 1970s. Production ceased in 1973 because natural pests decimated the crops, despite extensive chemical spraying".

Here was an example of a potentially huge industry which failed because at that time it lacked the ability to counter insect attack. Had Lurators been available then, it might well have succeeded.

In more recent times, it seems possible that a Cotton-growing industry may now be viable in the ORIA, using genetically-modified cotton varieties, developed at some expense. New varieties of GM cotton are designed to be resistant to the major caterpillar pests that attack the crop.

An alternative -- Repel not Kill
An alternative to killing insect pests attracted by IISPs is to repel them, by introducing a new Pattern which disrupts or masks their normal-target pattern (jamming). This technique is used in personal insect repellents, to discourage mosquitos, flies, and other insects from landing on one's skin (and possibly biting). The repellents are chemicals, but the jamming action appears to be through infrared signals produced by the chemicals as they break down. The most common chemical used here is called DEET.

Fig. DS902-F7. A personal insect repellent using DEET. From [8].

The identification and analysis of IISPs
The Insect Infrared Sensor Patterns used by insects will be almost infinitely varied, according to the type of insect and the purpose for which it is sensing at a given time. They can be compared to the visual pictures forming in the human brain, in their complexity.

So to build Lurators for a given purpose, their infrared output patterns must be tailored to the target insects. This means analyzing a natural target for its IR patterns, and reproducing the parts applicable to a particular IISP.

Insects and food targets
For example, cabbage leaves will be giving off infrared emissions, but the butterfly looking for food for its eggs and larvae will likely be sensitive to only part of these emissions. One way of investigating an IISP source is by analyzing it using infrared spectrometer equipment, of which there are many types.

One common use of IR spectrometers is to identify organic compounds. The portion of the infrared region most useful for analysis of organic compounds is not immediately adjacent to the visible spectrum, but is that having a wavelength range from 2,500 to 16,000 nm [9]. In the wavelength diagram above, this would be mostly mid-wave IR, with some extension into long-wave IR.

An example of the sort of record obtained from such a spectrometer is as below, from vanillin, an extract from vanilla beans.

Fig. DS902-F8. An infrared spectrum from Vanillin. From [9].

The IR pattern from a natural object such as a cabbage leaf may be due to a host of substances and structures which it contains, so the leaf may give quite a complex pattern, perhaps discoverable through several spectrometers working at different wavelengths.

Insects and mating targets
Other sets of IISPs can be obtained from the IR emissions of the insects themselves. A female moth ready to mate will emit an IISP attractive to a male of the same species, and the male will have an antenna setup finely tuned to the female emissions. A suitable IR spectrometer should be able to record the different patterns.

The male may be making its own emissions for purposes other than mating. The IR patterns from a female and a male can be juxtaposed, the spectrum differences should be due to the different sides of the mating equation.

Insect radar
It seems very possible that insects use their own IR emissions as a form of radar, to determine their positions and speeds, especially if they are night-flying insects. IR spectrometry should be able to record such IISP patterns.

Insect repellents
Insect repellents such as DEET will have their own infrared emission patterns. Study of these, and of the IISPs of insects for which DEET is effective, should give an indication of how such repellents work.

Generating IR patterns in a Lurator
Each model of Lurator will need to generate an IR pattern to suit its particular purpose. This may be to attract a particular insect, to repel a particular insect, or to act on a wider class of insect.

Conventional radio, microwave, and light technologies have produced various ways of emitting specific wavelengths through conventional antennas (aerials) and other devices. Experience with infrared emissions is less developed, but is improving.

An earlier analysis of relevance on the Web is Feasibility and Design for micropower sharp infrared broadcast antennas [2]. A recent book on the subject is Infrared Antennas and Resonant Structures [3]. Both these references look at generating IR patterns through standard electronic approaches.

Fig. DS902-F9. Schematics of a THz/infrared antenna. From [10].

A write-up on [3] says Infrared antennas and resonant structures are examples of the advances achieved during the last two decades based on the electromagnetic interaction of light and a wise combination of material and geometry. These interesting devices can be applied to a variety of fields in optics and photonics, where infrared detection can now overcome the limitations of previous technologies ... then follows a description of the two main types of devices developed by the authors: those producing an electric signal (antenna-coupled devices) and those changing the parameters of the light incident on the resonant elements (resonant optics).

Using insect antennas as IR generators
Another approach is to work from actual insect antennas as the generating elements. Detached insect antennas will actually generate signals if activated, but they are of limited life. Reproducing the physical structure of an antenna or a part of it, possibly in metal, should give a device which will radiate at the appropriate IR wavelengths.

Scanning an antenna structure and reproducing it with a fine 3-D printer is another possible method of producing Lurator cores. At the fine scale needed, techniques from printing integrated circuit chips may be helpful.

It is also possible to coat an insect antenna with metal, perhaps using a technique known as sputtering. This metal cast of an antenna should radiate or receive at the same wavelengths as the original antenna.

Commercial development of Lurators
The technical side of fabricating or producing Lurators will clearly need considerable development. Fortunately, there is a fair amount of experience here in the production of computer chips and in other areas of nanotechnology.

The amount of energy needed to run a Lurator is quite small -- an attached or integrated photoelectric cell with condenser storage should be ample, even to run associated tasks such as a microwave kill beam. So the Lurators would normally be self-powered.

For a commercial and business success, other factors also will need consideration. Again, a big volume of advice, of varying applicability, is already available here.

Intellectual property
The concept of "Intellectual Property Rights" is basic to modern business practices. The fundamental idea of manipulating insect behaviour through infrared emissions is now in the public domain and cannot be patented, although patents will certainly possible with the introduction of new devices.

For Lurators to achieve good commercial success, paths must be established to carry out much appropriate R & D (research and development) and exploit this in a way which generates income streams.

One such path might be the establishment of "Lurator Institutes", which would own the necessary electron microscopes and infrared spectrometer gear to delineate IISPs for particular uses, and the nanotechnology to produce Lurator pattern cores. As with complex computer chips, the intellectual property would be the copyright on the core pattern and stricture.

The Institutes would generate income by fabricating and selling Lurator cores to manufacturers of field equipment, or by licensing use of the core patterns to others.

One can imagine an Institute offering an extensive catalogue of off-the-shelf cores, with item descriptors such as Mosquito Lurators #M731 and #M208, Fruitfly Lurators #F62 and F#551, Personal Insect Repeller #PIR-Tropical 782, etc [4]. Also facilities to develop new Lurator Cores for a client's particular need.

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References and Links

[1]. Feasibility and Design for micropower sharp infrared broadcast antennas. http://zombal.com/zomb/scientific-design/feasibility-and-design-for-micropower-sharp-infrared-broadcast-antennas.
[2]. Darin Ragozzine. Feasibility and Design for micropower sharp infrared broadcast antennas. http://assets.zombal.com/b91113c5/Infrared-Broadcast-Antennas.pdf .
[3]. Javier Alda & Glenn D. Boreman. Infrared Antennas and Resonant Structures. https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/ebooks/PM/Infrared-Antennas-and-Resonant-Structures/eISBN-9781510613591/10.1117/3.2282288?SSO=1 .
[4]. Infrared Antennas. http://www.aoi.com.au/Data/DS902 Lurator PDF page/Infrared-Antennas.pdf .
[5]. Kathleen Mierzejewski. Prevent Caterpillars In The Garden. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/insects/prevent-caterpillars.htm .
[6]. Ord GM cotton impresses. https://www.businessnews.com.au/article/Ord-GM-cotton-impresses .
[7]. The Kimberley. http://www.avalook.com/wa/kimberly.htm .
[8]. Bushman Repellent 'PLUS'. http://www.bushman-repellent.com/bushman-plus-insect-mosquito-repellent-with-sunscreen.html.
[9]. Infrared Spectroscopy. https://www2.chemistry.msu.edu/faculty/reusch/virttxtjml/spectrpy/infrared/infrared.htm .
[10]. Infrared beam-steering using acoustically modulated surface plasmons over a graphene monolayer. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265296492_Infrared_beamsteering_using_acoustically_modulated_surface_plasmons_over_a_graphene_monolayer/figures?lo=1 .
[11]. David Noel. LB701: Insects Live in an Infrared World. http://aoi.com.au/LB/LB701/ .

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Version 1.0 compilation started 2017 Sep 14, on Web 2017 Sep 26.