Could the direct manipulation of individual atoms and molecules allow the creation of computers that could have exotic and weird shapes like a cube or even a sphere with flexible and/or continuous processing parts? I was reading about organic electronics and I read that computers could be soft and flexible using such technology and even an electronic paper could be the computer itself.

If computers had 3d shapes they would have far more processing power. I think that Spintronics, optical circuits, metamaterials and superconductors could solve the heat issue. And the interface would also not be an issue because futuristic computers could have holographic screens and keyboard controlled by thought or eye movements.

And these futuristic exotic looking machines could have processing power along all the material since the circuits would be created putting atom by atom, rather than concentrating all the processing power of the device in small square parts. However this process would make the chips much larger than today devices. Would that be a problem?

Another issue would be the size. What about a cube or a pyramid shaped computer measuring 5 cm across? Would that be an issue?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because it is not a worldbuilding question and asks too many questions. Worse, we already can build three-dimensional computer chips (we've had the tech since the 90s. Most CPUs today are 3D chips). Worst of all, while the question contemplates the desire for odd, arbitrary shapes, the OP doesn't provide a reason why they need such things. Science and engineering rarely exclude efficiency - and as an EE, I can't think of why you'd want a pyramidal chip. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 7:07

2 Answers 2


Yes, but the heat would still be a problem if you try to do it along the lines we have been doing it with chips. Square cube law.

The human brain seems to have worked it out though. If you were capable of molecular machinery like that, you would probably attempt something more like a brain with dynamic structures.


You seem to be confusing and mixing up concepts: 3D electronic and flexible electronic.

3D electronics is a reality today already with conventional, silicon based processes. Take a look at 3D NAND memories

3D integrated circuit (3D IC) technology stacks integrated circuit (IC) chips vertically into a single 3D IC chip package. [...] In 2019, Samsung produced a 1024 GB flash chip, with eight stacked 96-layer V-NAND chips and with QLC technology.

I would hardly call a 96 layers stack a 2D device. These are skyscrapers in a landscape of an IC. They are already shaped like a prism.

enter image description here

Flexible electronics is also already a thing. If you have bought any clothes recently you might have noticed that at the self check-out you don't need to scan the bar code any more: this thanks to an RF-ID comprised in the labels of the robe, which is totally flexible. RF-ID and other circuitry is routinely created on plastic and shows flexibility, and more and more progress is being made within the realm of internet of things.

The main limitation being adapting to the new materials. We are pretty good at making a 7 nm critical dimension on silicon, because we have more than half a century of experience and research on it, doing the same on plastic is not yet there.

Also, as a word of advice, take with a pinch of salt every academic paper saying that "X will be the new breakthrough in electronic". Researchers need to put on a good story behind their papers to attract the attention of generalist media, but going from a university lab to the market is a huge leap. Spintronic, DNA based chips, photonic circuits, metamaterials were already cool research topics 20 years ago when I was working on my PhD, and some of them have faded away. Reliability, scalability, economy of production, heat and electric management are among the things that do not worry that much a PhD candidate but will kill a business case at the board desk of a foundry.


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