News Feature | October 5, 2022

Bright Ideas — NASA's DART Deemed A Success, Cockroaches Get Their Comeuppance

abby proch headshot

By Abby Proch, former editor


NASA successfully slammed its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) craft into Dimorphus, a small asteroid, last week, and both the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope recorded the impact. Over five hours, the two combined took more than 50 images of the collision. The images revealed that Dimorphus’ brightness tripled after impact and stayed that way for about eight hours. The DART aircraft bumped Dimorphus slightly off its orbit with Didymos, but the extent of the impact is not yet known. DART has been flying in space for 10 months and is part of a larger effort by NASA to use kinetic force as a means of planetary defense.

Cockroaches are prolific and pesky critters, with the ability to survive in such harsh conditions that people joke they can endure a nuclear explosion, even the apocalypse. Yet that hasn’t stopped a team of researchers from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh to bring about their demise. Using machine vision and lasers, the team has found a means to effectively deter the insects from unwanted areas and, if necessary, blast them to smithereens. The device is relatively low cost and avoids all the pitfalls of pesticides, such harmful chemicals and toxins that can also affect unintended targets.

In Greek mythology, the god Zeus is many things — a leader, a seductor, and oath keeper, among others — and now his name has been bestowed upon what will likely become the highest peak power laser in the U.S. The Zetawatt-Equivalent Ultrashort pulse laser Systems (ZEUS) is “the interaction of a PetaWatt laser pulse colliding with a GeV energy electron beam that can be generated by one of its two beamlines. This geometry provides the equivalent of a ‘Zettawatt’ power laser interaction (1021 Watts) in the rest frame of the electron beam,” according to the National Science Foundation (NSF) ZEUS Laser Facility website. It is slated for its first use: a series of infrared laser pulses sent into a cloud of helium, which will turn into plasma. The plasma will then “accelerates electrons to high energies, and those electron beams then wiggle to produce very compact X-ray pulses,” according to The exercise aims to explore a new kind of X-ray imaging.

Underwater acoustics are being tapped to power a new deep-sea underwater camera that researchers hope can explore unfathomable depths for much longer than battery-powered and tethered cameras. The battery-free camera developed by MIT relies on energy harvesting via “piezoelectric transducers placed around its exterior, which can in theory be driven by sound waves from any source, such as a passing ship or marine life,” according to Because of their low power consumption, off-the-shelf imaging sensors proved the most appropriate. The camera's series of sequenced illuminations of red, green, and blue LEDs assist the grayscale camera in capturing images, which are then synthesized “into multi-illumination pixels by applying them to the RGB channels of a digital pixel array to reconstruct color images.”

In medical device news, Leuko and Precision Optics are reporting upswings in funding and sales, respectively. Leuko, maker of a non-invasive optical system that images white blood cells, has raised $5 million. A potential boon to cancer patient, the microscope platform images “blood cells flowing through human capillaries in vivo without the use of fluorescent labels.” The MIT and M+ Vision spinoff plans to use the cash to kick off its clinical trials in pursuit of FDA approval. Precision Optics, manufacturer of micro-optics used in medical imaging and defense applications, announced it closed fiscal year 2022 with a 50% increase in sales over last year. Despite raking in $15.7 million, the company is operating at a loss, largely due to an earlier acquisition of Lighthouse Imaging, which specialized in endoscopes. Yet, Precision Optics is optimistic as it plans to roll out its IPO later this year. The company also reported a favorable outlook as the market appears to be preferring single-use endoscopes over reusable options in an effort to avoid contamination.