The transistor, dating from 1947, has shrunk from a kludgy, half-inch-high contraption to a device whose components boast dimensions a few hundreds of atoms in length. Batteries, on the other hand, have improved how much power they deliver at roughly one fiftieth of that pace.

Bell Laboratories, which built the first transistor, has now become involved with the reinvention of the battery. The goal is to apply the techniques used for manufacturing transistors to mass-produce a battery that can be built in with the other circuitry on a chip. The device, called a nanobattery, shrinks features of the electrodes to the nanometer scale.