Science Technology This Magic Wand Kills Weeds With High Energy Light By Derek Markham Derek Markham Twitter Writer Derek Markham is a green living expert who started writing for Treehugger in 2012. Learn about our editorial process Updated October 23, 2020 Global Neighbor Share Twitter Pinterest Email Science Space Natural Science Technology Agriculture Energy NatureZap offers a quick effective nontoxic solution to getting rid of unwanted plants around the home. We've shown you how to make your own effective herbicides to take care of unwanted plants in the yard, but if you'd rather 'point and shoot' to rid your home of weeds, the NatureZap seems like a great option. How NatureZap Works Instead of harsh chemicals that may cause other issues in soil and groundwater, this device employs a combination of heat and light to kill weeds in yards, along sidewalks, and even in your garden. Developed in part with funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) office at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in southern California, the NatureZap device is said to produce die-back in treated plants at a rate of about 70-80%, especially in common nuisance plants such as ragweed, dandelions, and crabgrass. According to the news office at Edwards AFB, Dr. Danny Reinke of the 412th Civil Engineering Group, who is the principal scientist for conservation issues at the base, conceived the idea for the nontoxic weedkiller and submitted it to the SBIR office, where it was selected for funding and then sent to a few small businesses to develop it into a viable product. The NatureZap device, from Global Neighbor, is the result of that research and development, and along with being a potentially useful home weed eradication method, it could also play into the needs of the armed forces to find less toxic solutions (a goal of a 50% reduction) on Department of Defense properties, under federal regulations to protect endangered species located there. Global Neighbor We already know that concentrated heat can kill plants, and the NatureZap employs heat as part of the treatment, but if plants use light to grow or flourish, how does applying light to a weed kill it off? It turns out that certain wavelengths of light can effectively disable the photosynthetic system in some plants, causing them to die in just a few days. "The reason a plant is green is because it reflects green light and for photosynthesis a plant uses blue light. Overloading the blue frequency range disrupts the enzymes in the photosynthetic process, which cuts off the food supply to the plant and it dies. Some herbicides overload the metabolic system of the plant and makes the weed burn from the inside out. I thought that overloading the photosynthetic system would maybe do the same thing." - Dr. Danny Reinke The company website goes even further in explaining the process, which actually uses three different methods - heat to wilt the leaves, infrared light to "explode chloroplast" in the leaves and root crown, and blue and ultraviolet lights that penetrate two inches into the ground to kill the roots. The NatureZap device does have some limitations, including the kinds of weeds it is most effective on, and its relatively small treatment area (just the area under the device reflector), which means it's only useful for individually treating weeds, although the company is said to be developing another version that could be pulled behind a tractor to cover a larger area at one time. As Effective as Roundup According to TakePart, research on the devices' efficacy by a Central State University professor has shown that "NatureZap is at least as effective on ragweed as glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup," which is good news indeed, as glyphosate is being found in a large percentage of human bodies, and regardless of the argument of whether or not it's carcinogenic, it's probably not something we'd choose to be contaminated with. Global Neighbor has two versions of the NatureZap, a battery-powered device which has a 30 to 40 minute operating life per charge, and a 'wired' version that requires a power cord. Find out more at NatureZap or Global Neighbor.