MIT materials science professor Yet-Ming Chiang and his colleagues are developing a new battery specifically designed for an advanced hybrid plane. Brightly colored molecular models line two walls of Yet-Ming Chiang’s office at MIT. Chiang, a materials science professor and serial battery entrepreneur, has spent much of his career studying how slightly different arrangements of those sticks and spheres add up to radically different outcomes in energy storage. But he and his colleagues are taking a different approach to reach their next goal, altering not the composition of the batteries but the alignment of the compounds within them. By applying magnetic forces to straighten the tortuous path that lithium ions navigate through the electrodes, the scientists believe, they could significantly boost the rate at which the device discharges electricity. That shot of power could open up a use that has long eluded batteries: meeting the huge demands of a passenger aircraft at liftoff.If it works as hoped, itwould enable regional commuter flights that don’t burn fuel or produce direct climate emissions.