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September 5, 2018

Police Captain’s son gets 20 year prison sentence for terrorist plot

Police Captain’s son gets 20 year prison sentence for terrorist plot

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Crime and law
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Alexander Ciccolo, the son of a police captain for the US city of Boston, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in federal court on Wednesday. Ciccolo’s father, Robert Ciccolo, reportedly tipped off the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to his son’s probable intentions, an action mentioned by the U.S. Attorney during the trial. In 2017, Ciccolo’s mother, Shelley MacInnes, said in a radio interview her son is “very compassionate” and “would not hurt a fly.”

File photo of a federal prison building in Seagoville, Texas

As early as Monday, local news sources were predicting Ciccolo would receive a twenty year prison sentence. Ciccolo formally plead guilty in May to to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, one count of attempting to use weapons of mass destruction, assaulting a nurse in jail, and various other offenses. Reports indicate he told an undercover investigator he planned to detonate pressure cooker bombs in college cafeterias, among other places.

Ciccolo’s attorneys say he dealt with mental health and substance abuse problems, had poorly thought out plans and no real ability to carry out an attack. Law enforcement, however, described him as an Islamic-State loyalist. Ciccolo was originally arrested in 2015. During their investigation, FBI personnel observed Ciccolo purchase a pressure cooker from a WalMart store. An undercover agent gave him four guns that authorities state he had requested. After his arrest, investigators found four partially finished Molotov cocktails. The devices were filled with styrofoam and oil.



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December 19, 2015

Court sentences mother to 26 years in prison for murdering infant

Court sentences mother to 26 years in prison for murdering infant

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Saturday, December 19, 2015


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A court in Sacramento, California has sentenced a mother, Ka Yang, to 26 years to life in prison on Friday for the first-degree murder of her infant.

In November, a court convicted her of placing her six week old infant in a microwave oven in 2011. The baby suffered from severe burns covering a large part of her body that reached into her organs, prosecutors said.

Yang said she blacked out from a seizure and wasn’t aware of what she was doing at the time of the incident. According to her, she woke up with the baby already dead. Paramedics who arrived at the scene, however, said Yang wasn’t disoriented.



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September 10, 2015

Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash in Boston

Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash in Boston

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

The US federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday concluded a “series of errors” by flight crew caused a business jet crash near Boston, Massachusetts last year. Seven were killed when the Gulfstream IV overran a runway.

Cquote1.svg I can’t stop it Cquote2.svg

—Pilot de Vries, seconds from impact

The NTSB found the pilots failed to conduct preflight checks, mistakenly took off with flight control systems locked in position, and then failed to abort takeoff until too late. Manufacturer Gulfstream was criticised for an inadequate safety system; the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was accused of failing to properly check the system before certifying the aircraft.

On the evening of May 31 the passengers and crew were returning from Hanscom Field to Atlanta International Airport. Pilot Bauke “Mike” de Vries and co-pilot James McDowell each had thousands of hours’ experience, and had flown together for years. They skipped over preflight checks; the NTSB found this was routine for the pair.

The plane set off with the gust lock engaged. This system, which is intended to be disconnected before engine startup, locks various flight control surfaces in position on the ground. Unable to takeoff, it overshot the runway, crashing through airport equipment and a fence, before landing in a watery ravine and bursting into flames. Nobody survived.

A US Government Gulstream IV, from file.
Image: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

De Vries says several times “lock is on” on the voice recording, adding “I can’t stop it” moments before the crash. Gulfstream had installed a mechanism to prevent the throttle fully moving when gust lock was engaged, to give pilots a clear early warning something was amiss.

The NTSB found the throttle could still be pushed far enough to reach takeoff speed. The FAA had certified the system based on technical drawings. The NTSB said the FAA process was “inadequate” because there were no “engineering certification tests or analysis[…] to verify that the system had met its regulatory requirements.” Gulfstream say they are working with the FAA to rectify the issue.

The NTSB says it took ten seconds from noticing the problem before the crew began braking and another four seconds to power down the engines. The NTSB believes doing both within eleven seconds would have brought the flight to a halt on the runway.

The lock was applied upon landing six hours earlier. The flight was carrying four passengers, including entrepreneur and philanthropist Lewis Katz, back from a fundraiser. The seventh fatality was a flight attendant. Katz had co-engineered an $88 million takeover deal for the Philadelphia Inquirer four days earlier.

The Katz family later sold his stake in the paper to a business partner. Katz had hoped to boost the paper’s reputation.

“Complacency does not have a place in the cockpit of any aircraft”, NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said. The probe found skipped checks on 98% of the prior 175 flights the pilots undertook together. “If you’re acting that way, you are just fooling yourself,” said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, who has 32 years of commercial flight experience.


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Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash near Boston

Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash near Boston

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

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The US federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday concluded a “series of errors” by flight crew caused a business jet crash near Boston, Massachusetts last year. Seven were killed when the Gulfstream IV overran a runway.

Cquote1.svg I can’t stop it Cquote2.svg

—Pilot de Vries, seconds from impact

The NTSB found the pilots failed to conduct preflight checks, mistakenly took off with flight control systems locked in position, and then failed to abort takeoff until too late. Manufacturer Gulfstream was criticised for an inadequate safety system; the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was accused of failing to properly check the system before certifying the aircraft.

On the evening of May 31 the passengers and crew were returning from Hanscom Field to Atlanta International Airport. Pilot Bauke “Mike” de Vries and co-pilot James McDowell each had thousands of hours’ experience, and had flown together for years. They skipped over preflight checks; the NTSB found this was routine for the pair.

The plane set off with the gust lock engaged. This system, which is intended to be disconnected before engine startup, locks various flight control surfaces in position on the ground. Unable to takeoff, it overshot the runway, crashing through airport equipment and a fence, before landing in a watery ravine and bursting into flames. Nobody survived.

A US Government Gulstream IV, from file.
Image: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

De Vries says several times “lock is on” on the voice recording, adding “I can’t stop it” moments before the crash. Gulfstream had installed a mechanism to prevent the throttle fully moving when gust lock was engaged, to give pilots a clear early warning something was amiss.

The NTSB found the throttle could still be pushed far enough to reach takeoff speed. The FAA had certified the system based on technical drawings. The NTSB said the FAA process was “inadequate” because there were no “engineering certification tests or analysis[…] to verify that the system had met its regulatory requirements.” Gulfstream say they are working with the FAA to rectify the issue.

The NTSB says it took ten seconds from noticing the problem before the crew began braking and another four seconds to power down the engines. The NTSB believes doing both within eleven seconds would have brought the flight to a halt on the runway.

The lock was applied upon landing six hours earlier. The flight was carrying four passengers, including entrepreneur and philanthropist Lewis Katz, back from a fundraiser. The seventh fatality was a flight attendant. Katz had co-engineered an $88 million takeover deal for the Philadelphia Inquirer four days earlier.

The Katz family later sold his stake in the paper to a business partner. Katz had hoped to boost the paper’s reputation.

“Complacency does not have a place in the cockpit of any aircraft”, NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said. The probe found skipped checks on 98% of the prior 175 flights the pilots undertook together. “If you’re acting that way, you are just fooling yourself,” said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, who has 32 years of commercial flight experience.


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April 9, 2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev found guilty in Boston Marathon bombing trial

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev found guilty in Boston Marathon bombing trial

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

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The aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Image: Aaron Tang.

Jurors in the US federal criminal trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev found him guilty yesterday of all 30 charges for the bombing of the Boston Marathon which occurred on April 15, 2013. The bombings killed three people and injured a further 264 people. Tsarnaev was also found guilty of shooting dead Sean Collier, an MIT police officer. The jury took eleven hours across two days to find Tsarnaev guilty.

During the fifteen days of the trial, the prosecutors called 92 witnesses to testify as to the chaotic scenes following the bombing. The father of Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy killed in the bombing, said he had to make the difficult choice to leave his wounded son to die so he could get help for his six-year-old daughter whose leg had been destroyed in the blast. Footage presented in court showed Tsarnaev placing a backpack containing the bomb close to the location of Martin Richard.

Tsarnaev was represented by Judy Clarke, a death penalty specialist who previously represented Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber”. The defence focused on averting the death penalty, and called only four witnesses, seeking to present Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan as the guiding force in the attack. They said that Tamerlan searched online for terms like “detonator” and that while Tamerlan’s fingerprints were found on the bombs, Dzhokhar’s were not.

Though Massachusetts does not have the death penalty, as the case is being heard in federal court the prosecutors are able to seek the death penalty. The second phase of the trial is to decide whether or not Tsarnaev will be executed or sentenced to life in prison.



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  • “Two people confirmed dead in Boston Marathon bombing” — Wikinews, April 15, 2013

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February 8, 2015

Cancer kills Niki Quasney, Indiana gay marriage pioneer

Cancer kills Niki Quasney, Indiana gay marriage pioneer

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

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Niki Quasney, who together with wife Amy Sandler became the first married gay couple in Indiana, died of cancer on Thursday. She was 38. The death was announced today by the law firm that assisted her.

Cquote1.svg They knew that by coming forward they could help accelerate equality for all same-sex couples in Indiana by demonstrating the urgency of their need for equal dignity Cquote2.svg

—The couple’s lawyer

Indiana, US had only recognised their marriage last year after a federal judge granted their emergency request. They wed in 2013 in Massachusetts, two years after an Illinois civil union.

Quasney was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009 and sought the intervention to ensure eligibility for her daughters and wife to receive state and national assistance after her death. Also sought was a death certificate recognising her marriage.

The same judge ultimately struck down the state gay marriage ban. An appeals court in Chicago upheld the decision, as did the national Supreme Court. The case was one of a national slew following an earlier Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage.

“If my life is cut short because of ovarian cancer,” Quasney told one court “I want our children to know that their parents were treated like other married couples in their home state, and to be proud of this. I want to know what it feels like to be a legally recognized family in our community, together with Amy and our daughters.” Their lawyer Paul Castillo said today the couple “knew that by coming forward they could help accelerate equality for all same-sex couples in Indiana by demonstrating the urgency of their need for equal dignity.”



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August 10, 2014

US scientists create prototype of autonomous origami-inspired robot

US scientists create prototype of autonomous origami-inspired robot

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Science and technology
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Self-folding crawling robot in three stages.
Image: Seth Kroll, Wyss Institute.

A research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University‘s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has developed a robot that assembles itself within four minutes from a flat sheet into a 3D (three-dimensional) moving structure. Unlike previous self-folding machines, the robot can function autonomously. Science published the study this Friday.

Also on Friday, Science published a report of a Cornell University-led research team on applications of origami in design of programmable metamaterials.

As The Guardian reported, MIT–Harvard team lead author Sam Felton, a Harvard University Ph.D. candidate, priced the manufacturing equipment for the robot at $3,000, which could then make each individual unit — a 13cm-long, Transformer-like robot — for about $100.

As described by MIT researchers, the initially flat sheet consists of five layers: copper wires in the middle, then two layers of paper (above and below), and two outer layers of shape memory polymer. The embedded heating circuits activate the robot’s self-folding by heating shape memory polymers at the hinges. The parameters defining the fold pattern which determines the final 3D shape are placement of the self-folding hinges, and the order of their triggering. Felton told about creation of the pattern: “Cyclic folds are used by a software program called ‘Origamizer’ as building blocks to create any polyhedron. We’ve discovered that we can […] create a wide variety of structures and machines.”

Once the battery is attached to the design, the robot folds itself into the pre-determined shape and walks away, with motion of the four-legged robot controlled by the included microprocessor and two small motors synchronised by it. Each of the four legs has eight “linkages” which convert the force applied by a motor into motion. “It lets you transfer just one degree of freedom into a whole complicated motion, all through the mechanics of the structure,” says coauthor Erik Demaine, MIT professor of computer science and engineering.

The robot moved during testing at about 5.4 centimeters per second, over a pre-determined route, not just a straight line — without any outside assistance. Marc Lavine, a senior Science editor, suggested such robots might be put in place “through a confined passageway, such as a collapsed building, after which they would assemble into their final form autonomously”.

The folding pattern studied by the Cornell-led research team is well-known in origami as Miura-ori, whose unusual engineering properties caught the attention of team member Chris Santangelo of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Cornell University lead author Jesse Silverberg commented on potential of origami-based engineering: “When incorporated into more complex devices, these materials will enable on-the-fly transformation of mechanical function. We envision combining these origami-inspired materials with computer-controlled actuators to build more complex machines, such as hardening shells, locked-in joints and deployable barriers; and ultimately, this transformer technology will revolutionize the way we think about materials, moving them beyond their current static form, and revealing more functionality than what originally meets the eye”.



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July 29, 2014

Rare EF2 tornado hits Revere, Massachusetts

Rare EF2 tornado hits Revere, Massachusetts

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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File photo of Revere City Hall, one of the buildings damaged in the tornado.
Image: John Phelan.

A rare tornado ranked EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale struck the city of Revere, Massachusetts around 9:30 am local time (1330 UTC) on Monday, causing a swath of destruction over two miles (about three km) long and 3/8th of a mile (about 6/10 km) wide as winds topped around 120 mph (about 190 kph). The tornado began at the border of Revere and neighboring Chelsea, Massachusetts and traveled along the street of Broadway in Revere, according to the National Weather Service‘s preliminary report.

Over 65 buildings have been damaged, according to officials, reportedly including Revere’s city hall, an ice rink, and an auto body business which had its roof ripped off. Thirteen buildings are reported to be uninhabitable. Partial building and roof collapses along with downed power lines and trees were reported through the city. Cars were crushed by trees or flipped over. Nevertheless, no serious injuries or deaths were reported in the densely populated city.

Revere mayor Dan Rizzo said, “We were very, very fortunate to have no casualties and just some minor injuries from this monumental storm that took us all by surprise”. Rizzo added, “Given the magnitude of the storm, it’s really a miracle that no one sustained more serious injuries”. Revere Police are urging people to avoid the city until further notice as clean up begins. A shelter has been opened at the Rumney Marsh Academy school.

The tornado is the first to strike the Boston area since records were first kept in 1950.


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March 10, 2014

Wheelchair curling enters third day at 2014 Winter Paralympics

Wheelchair curling enters third day at 2014 Winter Paralympics

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Monday, March 10, 2014

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Wheelchair curling continued today at the Ice Cube Curling Center at the 2014 Winter Paralympics on difficult playing conditions as a result of the warm temperature outside. In the morning session, the South Korea lost to Russia in the eighth end by a score of 5–7, the United States lost to Canada 2–7 in seven ends, Norway edged out Finland 6–8 in extra ends, and China defeated Sweden 8–4 in seven ends.

At the conclusion of the morning session, round robin standing had Canada in first with 4 wins; Slovakia in second with 3 wins; Russia in third with 3 wins and 1 loss; Great Britain in fourth with 2 wins and 1 loss; China and Norway in fifth with 2 wins and 2 losses; South Korea, Sweden, and the United States in seventh place with 1 win and 3 losses; and Finland last with 4 losses.

Finland and Norway were evenly matched, going point for point in the first pair of ends, trading 2 points each in the next pair of ends, then Norway scored 2 points and 1 point in the next ends with Finland answering back. Tied after eight ends, they went to extra ends which Norway won with 2 points.

Outpacing other curlers on the ice, United States looked like they might be able to come back to tie things after their second end against Canada, and then only being down one after the fourth end, but Canada went on to score points in the next three ends.

While Sweden won three of the seven ends they played against China, they were unable to beat the Chinese team who scored 2 points in two ends and 3 points in another end. In the fourth end, the 3 points came after a precision takeout by the Chinese skip Wang Haitao that cleared two Swedish stones off the sheet.

With the crowd behind them the entire match, Russia came from behind after the first end and third end to tie things up in the fifth end and take the lead. They allowed the South Koreans to score two points in the seventh end to force an eighth end. Russian skip Andrei Smirnov cleared a South Korean stone sitting in front of three Russian stones off the sheet that gave the Russians a two point lead.

The United States has not medaled at the past two Paraympic Games, with their best finish a fourth at the 2010 Games. Of the United States’s curling team, two are returning wheelchair curling Paralympic veterans. James Joseph, the second, competed at the 2006 Winter Paralympics and 2010 Winter Paralympics. The skip and Madison, Wisconsin native, Patrick McDonald, competed at the 2010 Games. Penny Greely, the lead, competed in sitting volleyball at the 2004 Summer Paralympics where she won a bronze medal. David Palmer, the third, is competing at his first games after having a fourth place finish at the 2013 World Championships in Russia and a fifth place finish at the 2012 World Championships in South Korea. Alternate and Cape Cod native Meghan Lino is also at her first Paralympic Games after taking up the sport in 2009.

Sweden’s team has three team members who competed at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Canada: Jalle Jungnell, Glenn Ikonen, and Patrik Kallin. 60 year old Jungnell has the team’s most Paralympic experience, having competed at the 1988, 1992, and 1996 Summer Paralympics in wheelchair basketball, as well as competing at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Paralympics in wheelchair curling. Finnish born Ikonen had been suspended for six months following the Vancouver Games following a positive doping test. He claimed metroprolol was a drug he had been using for 4 or 5 years, and was unhappy that his doctor prescribed the blood pressure reducing drug because he would not have intentionally taken a banned substance.

The 2014 Games are the first Paralympics for Russia’s wheelchair curling team. Alternate Oksana Slesarenko from Yekaterinburg and skip Andrei Smirnov also from Yekaterinburg have the most experience on the team, both having taken up the sport in 2003, and competing at the 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013 World Championships.

Team Canada includes all five members of their 2013 World Championship winning team, including 63-year-old skip Jim Armstrong, 51-year-old Dennis John Thiessen, 52-year-old Ina Forrest, 47-year-old Sonja Gaudet, and 37-year-old Mark Ideson. Gaudet is the only wheelchair curling Paralympian with two gold medals, having won them in 2006 and 2010. Teammates Armstrong and Thiessen were part of the 2010 gold medal winning team. Gaudet also has gold medals from the 2009, 2011, and 2013 World Championships. While Armstrong was inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 1990 for his accomplishments in able bodied curling, Gaudet was the first wheelchair-only curler to be inducted when she was part of the 2013 class.

South Korea has two returning 2010 Games silver medalists, Kang Mi-Suk and Kim Myung-Jin. Both originally played other sports before taking up curling. Kang played table tennis and Kim played wheelchair basketball.

On Saturday, Russia beat China 5–4, South Korea lost to Norway 0–10, Canada beat Great Britain 6–3, and Slovakia defeated the United States 6–4 in the morning session. Sweden beat Finland 7–6, Canada beat Russia 5–4, the United States lost to South Korea 5–9, and Norway lost to China 3–7. In the morning session yesterday, the United States defeated Norway 8–5, Sweden lost to Great Britain by a score of 4–6, China lost to Slovakia 3–8, and Finland lost to Russia 4–7. In the afternoon session yesterday, Canada defeated Sweden 7–4, Finland lost to Slovakia 6–9, and Great Britain beat South Korea by a score of 8–4.

Unlike able-bodied curling, players release the stone from a stationary position and there is no sweeping. Another curler often sits behind the stone thrower to hold their chair in place while they execute their throw. Unlike a number of other Paralympic sports, there is only one classification in wheelchair curling and a variety of lower body disabilities compete in the sport. South Koreans Kim Myung-Jin and Kim Jong-Pan, Swede Kristina Ulander, Team USA’s Meghan Lino, Patrick McDonald, and David Palmer, and Russians Alexander Shevchenko, Svetlana Pakhomova, Oksana Slesarenko, Andrei Smirnov, and Marat Romanov have spinal cord injuries. Canadian Jim Armstrong has injured knees. Canadian Ina Forrest lost her leg in a farming accident. Team USA’s James Joseph has a limb deficiency.

Sochi Wheelchair Curling 3.jpg Team USA confers on a shot
Image: Laura Hale.

Sochi Wheelchair Curling 4.jpg The Russian team confers on a shot
Image: Laura Hale.

Sochi Wheelchair Curling 5.jpg Finland and Norway congratulate eachother following the conclusion of their game
Image: Laura Hale.
Sochi Wheelchair Curling 1.jpg Team USA fans watching the matches
Image: Laura Hale.
Sochi Wheelchair Curling 2.jpg Bagpipers playing before the start of wheelchair curling
Image: Laura Hale.



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June 21, 2013

Scientists create micro-battery using 3D printing

Scientists create micro-battery using 3D printing

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Friday, June 21, 2013

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A 3D printer demonstrating the manufacturing technique used to create the battery.
Image: Ciell.

Scientists have successfully created a Lithium ion micro-battery the size of a grain of sand. A team of researchers from Harvard University and the University of Illinois were able to create the tiny battery using 3D printing technology.

In order to achieve this feat, the separate parts of the battery were printed layer-by-layer using materials thinner than a human hair. This resulted in two separate comb-like structures which, when interlocked, act as the anode and cathode. These were then immersed in an electrolyte solution which created a working battery.

This created a micro-battery comparable to what is commercially available in “charge and discharge rate, cycle life and energy densities.” For years, scientists have been trying to develop miniature devices in a range of areas including medicine and communications. However, due to current manufacturing techniques, the batteries have often been larger than the devices they are supposed to power.

This development could pave the way for new types of miniature technologies, as well as technologies deemed not feasible due to limitations in existing battery design.



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