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So What Is This Secretive Chinese Sonic Weapon Exactly?

The “sonic gun” apparently uses infrasound to disperse crowds, rioters.

© Buyenlarge - Getty Images   The “sonic gun” apparently uses infrasound to disperse crowds, rioters.

By Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics

  • The Chinese Academy of Scientists has invented a new handheld anti-riot weapon.
  • The weapon uses sound to disperse crowds, causing discomfort to individuals until they leave the area.
  • The U.S. has looked into similar nonlethal weapons, using strobes and the LRAD sound cannon.

A new weapon invented by Chinese scientists uses low frequency sound waves to cause physical distress, forcing rioters, protesters, or anyone else the wielder wants to vacate the area. The new “sonic gun” was developed as a nonlethal weapon system for use by police and law enforcement as an alternative to lethal weapons.

The Chinese scientists claim the weapon, developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, uses “focused waves of low frequency sound” to cause “extreme discomfort, with vibrations in the eardrums, eyeballs, stomach, liver, and brain”. 

The South China Morning Post, reporting on the weapon, says it has no moving parts. The Post further stated, “Professor Xie Xiujuan, lead scientist on the project, said the device was powered by a tube-shape vessel containing an inert gas. When heated, the gas particles vibrate and a deep, monotonous sound is emitted.”

This sound is likely infrasound, a category of sounds lower than 20 hertz that are inaudible to humans. According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, infrasound’s effect on the human inner ear includes “vertigo, imbalance, intolerable sensations, incapacitation, disorientation, nausea, vomiting, and bowel spasm; and resonances in inner organs, such as the heart."

© U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Foster Bamford   Guided missile cruiser USS Gettysburg with LRAD device, 2012.

The U.S. and its allies have purchased and deployed the Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD for use in riot control situations. LRAD, like the Chinese “sonic gun,” uses sound but in a different way, emitting a loud, high pitched electronic squeal instead of a low frequency throb. One journalist on the receiving end of LRAD described feeling as though his head was going to pop, and that his brain felt like it was “vibrating in a bowl of jelly on the table.”

The as-yet unnamed weapon is described as rifle-like, with a stock, trigger, and barrel. Earlier this month, a panel from the Ministry of Science and Technology met in Beijing and approved the sonic gun for mass production. The panel recommended the weapon be turned into practical equipment “as soon as possible.”

The new weapon, developed in concert with Chinese law enforcement and military authorities, would likely be issued to the People's Armed Police, a large paramilitary police force that serves Beijing, as well as the People's Liberation Army.

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Technology News: So What Is This Secretive Chinese Sonic Weapon Exactly?
So What Is This Secretive Chinese Sonic Weapon Exactly?
The “sonic gun” apparently uses infrasound to disperse crowds, rioters.
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