in Offbeat, Technology

Germans Invent Weed-Killing Laser

Before my pothead readers get all bent out of shape about the German’s weed-annihilating laser, know that it isn’t designed, specifically, to work on that type of weed. Nope this little gardener’s friend from the Leibniz University of Hannover is designed to zap the average backyard or farm weed (and no, not THAT type of ‘farmer’).

The Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) is a low-powered, infrared laser that inhibits weed growth in a quasi-natural, chemical-free way. The inventors hope that this eco-friendly weed zapper will be a healthy alternative to costly, toxic and environmentally-damaging herbicides. Thomas Rath, of Biological Production Systems, who headed the LZH team designed the laser to heat the weeds’ cells up just enough to damage them and inhibit any further growth. Kind of like a tanning bed for weeds instead of soon-to-be-growth-stunted oompa loompa teens from New Jersey.

The brilliance of the laser is that it walks a fine line. Too little sunlamp-style heat and the weed growth is encouraged, not inhibited, to grow; and too much? Well, we’ve all seen lasers blow things up right? The other tricky part of the procedure is locating the weeds’ growth centers.

The REALLY tricky part was figuring out how to use the laser to kill only the weeds and not the healthy plants living side by side.

How the Heck?

If you’re wondering how a laser knows whether a plant is a healthy, desirable plant or a run amok weed, well the team had to carefully input data into the laser’s computer, using an algorithm programmed into the unit’s sensors. The computer and sensors determine the plant’s weed status by examining and measuring its contours and by accurately aiming the laser at the plant’s growth center.

Does this REALLY Work?

Well, yes and no. The laser really does zap weeds, but it has to be mounted on a moving track that hovers over plants, so it only really works in greenhouses. And expensive, high-tech greenhouses at that since the unit is difficult to mount and program, and expensive to purchase and install. Currently ever other form of weed removal is cheaper.

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