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This article defines a novel term (that is hopefully sensibly chosen). The term is introduced to make a concept more concrete and understand its interrelationship with other topics related to atomically precise manufacturing. For details go to the page: Neologism.
Only one of very many possible microcomponent shapes. This is a space filling truncated octahedron.
A cube shaped subproduct block assembled from many microcomponents of about ~1µm size. The microcomponents displayed here all have truncated octahedral shape. Here 24x24x24 microcomponents are depicted. The on this wiki usually used factor of 32 between assembly level sizes would be a bit too big to make out the individual truncated octahedra. The whole block is with its 24µm in size just a bit below the human eye visibility limit which is at about 75µm.

Microcomponents are (re)composable functional units. (Re)composability is very important. Hence the "components" part in the name..
Assembled microcomponents make up gemstone based metamaterials and thus provide the basis for advanced atomically precise products.


  • are mainly built out of standard mass produced diamondoid molecular elements (greater variety than the mass produced crystolecules though)
  • are in the size range from roughly 0.1µm to 5.0µm (see section "Limits to microcomponent sizes" below). Hence the "micro" part in the name.
    2µm will be the reference size here in this wiki.
    Their size constitutes a trade-off between re-usability and space usage efficiency.

Microcomponents are also mentioned on the "assembly levels" page and all over the place on this wiki.

Advantages of microcomponent products vs monolithic ones:

  • potential recyclability (see: Global microcomponent redistribution system)
  • potential repairability
  • product assembly is much more energy efficient when done from recycled parts
  • product assembly is way faster when done from recycled parts (eventually almost instantly by human perception)

Disadvantages of microcomponent products vs monolithic ones:

  • additional interface border constraints in system design
  • minor loss of material strength
  • minor loss of density of functionality

Limits to microcomponent sizes

Lower limit

A microcomponent should be exposable to air.
Just a convention here following from a focus on recycleability.

Even parts as small as a few nanometers in size can already be locked out of vacuum if
all the open bonds are already passivated and/or sealed into the interior.
The term "microcomponent" then becomes a bit of a misnomer though.

It's relatively easy to mix in a small amount of quite a bit smaller parts jumping assembly levels.
Doing too much of this assembly level skipping slows down the assembly process significantly tough.
In the extreme for x32 sizesteps (like assumedin this wiki) skipping an assembly level entirely makes assembly 32x32x32 = 32000 times slower.

Upper limit

Parts as big as 50 micrometers (=0.05mm) are in most cases still invisible for human eyes.
Bigger will give the products a visible texture. Like today's visible layers in plastic 3D prints.
Likely not desirable, but doable. This blurs into mesocomponents.


In the book "Radical Abundance" Eric Drexler introduces them as microblocks.
Since I want to especially point to the possibility of including functionality and the possibility of recycling and recomposing we'll call them microcomponents in this wiki. "Block" sounds more like a typically passive thing that may not typically be disassemblable and reusable.


In advanced nanofactories microcomponent size is limited by the sizes of the building chambers that are void of any gas molecules (assembly level II). Actually this is only the case if a clean non inert gas (e.g. air) environment is introduced at the soonest possible point (that is assembly level III).

For the creation of bulk monolithic (un-recyclable) structures a nanofactory must be completely "filled" with vacuum (or noble gas) - not only the lowest levels. The microcomponent manipulators (assembly level III) then too can fuse diamondoid surface interfaces together. Higher stages of convergent assembly of bulk monolithic crystals may need to be avoided because self alignment becomes more difficult. See Nanosystems Fig 14.1. for a possible approach.

Since it can be desirable to operate microcomponents in a non vacuum environment (separation of assembly levels) and one should want to be able to recycle them, microcomponents

  • should have no exposed open bonds ( = chemical radicals) on their external surfaces
  • should preferably use reversible locking mechanisms
  • should be meaningfully tagged

Shapes of crystolecules

In the simplest case one could use a simple cube as delimiting base shape. Stacking them then forms a simple cubic microcomponent crystal. To get less anisotropic behavior of metamaterials one can make them have the shape of either of:

  • truncated octahedrons [1] [2] (the Wigner Seitz cell of the body centered cubic system bcc) preserve parts of the cubes <100> surface planes and expose much of the <111> octahedral planes which are conveniently normal to diamond bonds (when standard orientation is choosen for the majority of the internal crystalline components) Completely flat surfaces for Van der Waals bonding can be used since partly finished assemblies always have (in contrast to partly finished assemblies of simple cubes) dents that prevent side-ward sliding.
  • rhombic dodecaherdons (the Wigner Seitz cell of the face centered cubic system fcc)

Base cells of more complicated crystal structures or even quasi-crystals will make geometric reasoning exceedingly hard and will therefore probably only be considered if needed for a good reason. Some examples:

  • tetrahedrons and octahedrons ("geomag-spacefill" which is the octet truss)
  • space fills not derived from crystal structure base cells
  • space fills derived from crystal structure base cells

Deriving shapes for microcomponents from more complex crystal structures:
With the voroni cells around atoms in simple crystal structures of especial interest
one also gets space-filling sets of polyhedra that can be used at the much larger scale of microcomponents.
Spacefilling sets of polyhedra from quasicrystals may lead to especially desirable more isotropic mechanical properties.
Examples for crystal structure derived shapes:

  • Weaire–Phelan structure - structure with the least surface area (yet unproven)
  • base cells for quasicrystals with 5,7,9,10,11,... fold rotation symmetries; Symmetric rods with a single global rotation axis can be built. Spacefills can be generated either by straightforward projection from higher dimensional space by subdivision rules or by potentially difficult puzzling. They may have interesting mechanical properties.

Further shapes of practical interest are:

  • tubbing segments (like in tunnel construction work) for curved parts of several µm size
  • adapter cells from one space-fill to another
  • partly rounded cells for outer shells
  • special shapes required for a mechanical metamaterial function (interlinking slide-rolling platelets)

  • and many many more ...

sub microcomponent structures

The inside of a microcomponent is usually a monolithic diamondoid machine structure created by irreversible fusion of surface interfaces in assembly level II irreparable if damaged and at best testable.

Internal reversible joints are possible but may waste too much space. Van der Waals joints (flat surface contact sticking) waste almost no space but one must take care. The internal structure shouldn't be weaker bonded than the bonds between the microcomponents. Accidental or intentional breaking of structures could then create a big mess.

Encapsulating Van der Waals assemblies by shape locking seems to be a good choice if applicable. Like with (sorts/types/letters) in a book printing press a mill style robotic mechanosyntesis cores could be assembled with a reversibly matter-hardcoded program.

super microcomponent structures

Some systems stretch over many microcomponents and thus can't be counted to the diamondoid metamaterials as a whole - they are makro-heterogenous. Diamondoid heat pump systems are one example, nanofactories another.

Systems for quasi welding will be pretty big and probably implemented around the size range of microcomponents and located at distances perceivable by human vision.


Microcomponent threshold

In the stack of convergent assembly the size of microcomponents is the point below which things change. Stages become less similar to each other and there's a change from freely programmable general purpose assembly to hard-coded factory style conveyor belt assembly.

External links:

  • Customizable Crystallographic Building Block [3]
  • One possible small set of bodies that fill space and can create flat surfaces by George W. Hart [4]