China is reportedly developing a non-lethal, microwave-based system that can be deployed for riot control, counter-terrorism and border patrols.

The novel Microwave Active Denial System, developed by the Beijing Institute of Radio Measurement under the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, is designed to project millimeter microwaves at targets and stimulate their nociceptors – sensory neurons commonly known as the “pain nerve” – in a bid to subdue targets and disperse them, according to the Global Times.

Sensory nerves are particularly sensitive to microwave damage. Cases of persistent neuritis and compression neuropathy – disease or dysfunction of one or more peripheral nerves, typically causing numbness or weakness – have been reported after significant microwave exposure.

Neuropathy due to damaged peripheral nerves can occur when the nerve is subjected to microwaves of sufficient power density and the damage mechanism is believed to be thermal.

Significant injury with blisters, pain and nerve damage can occur even with exposures to strong microwaves as short as two to three seconds. Due to the deep penetration of these frequencies, the skin may be minimally affected and show no signs of damage, while muscles, nerves, and blood vessels may be significantly damaged.

Still, Chinese designers hail the system as non-lethal but highly effective and can be deployed in situations including counter-terrorist operations, anti-riot response, VIP protection during major events, plus maritime convoy missions and border defense, among others.

Effectiveness and safety tests for the system have been conducted with experts from the Ministry of Public Security and the Armed Police. Results show the microwaves beamed at targets will not leave permanent injuries or cause long-term physical damage but are strong enough to quell unrest and disperse crowds.

The system is also smaller in size and highly portable and can be mounted on a police van for fast response. Such a van will have an antenna on its top.