A radical new design that promises to revamp and rewire a decades-old staple of electronics — the battery — may also be the elusive blueprint for powering so-called “micro-electromechanical systems,” or MEMS, futuristic devices no wider than a human hair.

The shift from old to new involves a simple change of geometry. Traditional batteries have a two-dimensional array of positive and negative electrodes stacked on top of one another like sheets of paper. Increasing battery power means adding more electrode layers, more weight and more size. Dunn and his team propose a three-dimensional array of electrode rods stacked next to each other like pipes on a flatbed truck.

With each electrode rod only a thousandth of a centimeter wide, the 3-D design also reduces the distance ions have to travel, keeping the battery compact and tightly packed.
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