Every time a publicity announcement plops on to the virtual doormat of my email inbox and alludes to something "groundbreaking", a "revolution", a "breakthrough", I feel a tiny frisson of excitement, just as I did when I was a cub science reported, back in the day. Unfortunately, the excitement in my cynical old journalist's brain is rarely sustained if the strapline was enticing enough for me to continue reading. They are almost always disappointing; sadly it is rare "breakthrough" science indeed that bears up to the hyperbole of the press release.

Sometimes, however, the least promising of press releases turns up a little nugget. When one appears that claims to have reinvented the lithium-ion battery, my sceptical first thought is, "same old, same old". But, not this time. This time, the intrigue lies in the way the "groundbreaking, revolutionary breakthrough" is couched. Not in some clever, but esoteric, twist in the technology at the academic laboratory bench, but innovation in the realm of manufacturing itself.

Now, any outside observer of the electronics industry, for instance, might somehow imagine that innovation is the name of the game. But, as I see it the chip designers and makers have not really innovated since the transistor first went microscopic in the 1960s. Indeed, the industry even has a rule - Moore's Law. Moore's observation that transistor density in an integrated circuit approximately doubles every eighteen months, essentially governs how the industry lays out its roadmap for progression, it's as if it limits innovation because they feel the law is there to be obeyed. To my mind, this observational law stymies any detours that might be taken and so new destinations never appear in the industry's "sat nav" of development. It's the same old chips all the way, chopped and fried in the same old fabrication plants, upgraded with each gentle jump down that 18-month density scale.

Another critical component of electronics, particular portable devices - whether smart phone, phablet or electric car - the batteries too seem to be stuck in an innovation-free rut. They are a nineteenth century technology struggling to keep pace with the 21st century. Fuel cells? 19th Century? Supercapacitors? Old hat!

So, I vigilantly keep a weather eye on developments just on the off chance that something to usurp the tried and tested will come along. Which brings us back to that intriguing press release. Could this hold the promise after which I, and many others, have been hankering? It's about lithium-ion batteries. So, what's new?

Well, Yet-Ming Chiang of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston, USA, reckons he and his colleagues are on to something big. Yes, it's Li-ion batteries and, yes, we have been there for two decades, and everyone uses them in almost every portable device. But, Chiang has looked, not at the way we use them, but the way we make them and spotted countless dead ends and redundancies in their manufacture.

He and his team are hoping to change radically [pardon the pun], this energy supplier by reinventing it as a "flow battery" in which the electrodes are suspensions of tiny particles carried by a liquid and pumped through various compartments of the battery. In this way, he hopes to make manufacturing far more efficient by eradicating the components that are not really needed. In Chiang's semi-solid battery, flexibility is an option, so too resistance [again, pardon the pun] to the usual damage that Li-ion batteries suffer with repeated charge cycles.

Fundamentally, it is in the manufacturing where the innovation lies. Chiang and his colleagues have not tried to build a better mousetrap, as it were, they have simply taken the old one and found a much better way to make it. "Instead of the standard method of applying liquid coatings to a roll of backing material, and then having to wait for that material to dry before it can move to the next manufacturing step, the new process keeps the electrode material in a liquid state and requires no drying stage at all. Using fewer, thicker electrodes, the system reduces the conventional battery architecture’s number of distinct layers, as well as the amount of non-functional material in the structure, by 80 percent," the release says.

Chiang's spinout company has made about 10,000 samples of a prototype to test the assembly process and, of course, to test the mettle of the batteries, themselves. Three industrial partners are carrying out the testing, patents, grants and venture capital are in place. Is that a revolutionary, groundbreaking breakthrough? We will just have to wait and see.

David Bradley blogs at Sciencebase Science Blog and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the bestselling science book "Deceived Wisdom".