Micro-vehicles driven and guided by light: will they carry medicines into our cells in the future?

Micro-vehicles driven and guided by light: will they carry medicines into our cells in the future?

Micro-vehicles driven and guided by light

Led by Prof. Mikael Käll and former PhD student Daniel Andrén, a team from Chalmers University of Technology has built tiny "metaveicles" that are mechanically pushed and guided by light waves, coating microscopic particles with what are known as "meta- surfaces ". The latter are described by the university as "carefully designed and ordered nanoparticles, tailored to direct light in interesting and unusual ways."

After the completed metavicles have been placed in a shallow dish of water , the scientists used a mildly focused laser to direct a flat wave of light at them. It turned out that by varying the intensity and polarization of the light, it was possible not only to push the vehicles, but also to control their speed and drive them - it was even possible to drive them remotely through patterns.

According to the third Newton's law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - this means that when the light hits the meta-surface and is deflected in a new direction, the meta-surface is also pushed away in the opposite direction ", says Käll .

The team also managed to use metaveicles to carry other objects - such as a microscopic polystyrene beads, a yeast particle and a dust particle - by pushing them in front of themselves. It is therefore hoped that the technology will one day be used in applications such as the movement of microparticles through solutions within or adjacent to cells.

First Drive: Rivian’s R1T Electric Pickup Truck

The Takeaway

After more than a decade of development, the most intriguing name in electric vehicles is shipping its first round of trucks this fall. And those years were well spent. I got to take Rivian’s R1T pickup on a test drive through the Rockies this past week and was happy that the anticipation and years of following the automaker paid off. The R1T is capability wrapped in an accessible package, for drivers who want to use it for daily errands and weekend adventures or as a light-duty work truck.

  • Four-wheel drive provides torque where it’s needed and lending off-road chops.
  • The intuitive displays and range of modes (All Purpose, Off-Road, Sport, Conserve, Tow) make selecting the right drive characteristics easy—even for people not used to tweaking things like ride height.
  • Range: 314 miles (EPA-estimated)
  • Horsepower: 835
  • Torque: 908 ft-lb
  • 0-60: 3 seconds
  • Towing capacity: 11,000 pounds
  • Approach angle: 34°
  • Departure angle: 29.3°
  • Breakover: 25.7°
  • $67,500 starting price, with a standard warranty of five years, 60,000 miles
  • Learn More

    Vehicles are, at their heart, enabling. And I mean that in the best way. Whether you need transportation to Little League games for your kids and their friends, want to escape for a weekend and get a dose of #vanlife, or get your kicks from the occasional track day, the best car for you will help you do that without demanding too much. And Rivian’s R1T pickup can facilitate in many ways. Most obvious is in the adventure and off-road realms, which is where the company has more or less planted its flag with a range of modes for driving on dirt, optional accessories like a camp kitchen, and collaborating with Yakima on a rooftop tent and bars. After my time behind the wheel getting a feel for the truck during a few days in and around Breckenridge, Colorado, that’s the context in which I’d be most excited to use it if I were to buy one. But it wouldn’t be out of place in the garage of workmen and women, either. Befitting an electric vehicle, this pickup is essentially a giant rolling battery, more than just a means of transportation.


    Rivian developed the R1T in a “skateboard design,” according to the press pamphlet. It’s a similar layout to what you’ll find in other EVs, with the battery cells running along the bottom of the truck’s frame, between the wheels. These cells power the four electric motors—one for each wheel, though they are linked in front and rear pairs. The front axle puts out 415 horsepower and 413 foot-pounds of torque, while the rear delivers 420 hp and 495 ft-lb. Having these motors function this way mimics a locking differential when needed and allows for increased slip control by directing the power to the tires with the most grip and not to those that are spinning. This is particularly helpful in off-road contexts, a good segue into the first portion of my test drive.

    Off-Road Performance

    In the morning of our full-day test drive of the R1T, our group set out from Breckenridge, at roughly 9,600 feet up from sea level, and ascended above tree line to about 12,600 at the highest point along our route of established off-road trails in the Rockies. The first leg of the track ran along a small creek, which at points flowed out onto our path. That, plus some snow the night before, meant that the going was a bit icy. But the only point at which the R1T ran into any trouble was when I got hung up on a particularly large rock by the front passenger side wheel; backing up and getting a bit more steam along a new line got us back underway. Even at the first very technical section, where a spotter guided me up a steep muddy and rock-strewn incline, the truck didn’t falter as I kept the speed consistent.

    Another factor in this capability is the R1T’s Off-Road mode, which I was able to activate with a few taps on the center display. Within that, there are a few sub-modes such as Rally and Auto, but I selected Rock Crawl, which bumped the ride height up to 14.4 inches. This also softened the accelerator, making for a more forgiving ride. As I entered tight, off-camber sections of the trail, I was able to gently guide the truck along with confidence, making micro-adjustments to the steering wheel to hold my line even as we tipped to 30-35 degrees at points. That’s my best guess on the angle, given that I often had one wheel in the air here and was focused more on not gouging out the sides of the truck on rock.

    Two other difference-makers here were that—in rock crawl mode—the R1T stiffens the independent air suspension so you don’t bottom out on uneven terrain, plus the robust camera system. Again, a few pokes at the center screen showed me three views: directly in front of us and to the sides (angled forward) from each of the side-view mirrors. Tucking the mirrors in, I was able to navigate the tightest sections of trail by glancing at the camera views as I went, adjusting to make sure I wasn’t too close to one wall or the other.

    After our caravan made our way above tree line, one of my fellow drivers punctured a sidewall and had to stop to swap on the spare. Not a great situation, but it let me observe another mode in action: tire change. This locks the suspension so that you can more easily jack the truck up without it thinking that you’re still rock crawling and trying to keep itself level and the wheel on the ground.

    I appreciated those intuitive touches and design, as they helped make the trail feel accessible despite being the most technical I’ve experienced. The 42.7 inches of water fording afforded additional peace of mind, even though we didn’t come close to that on our route.

    On-Road Performance

    After stopping for lunch near the small town of Montezuma, we aired up each of the all-terrain Pirelli tires—mounted on 20-inch wheels—from the 26 psi for off-road to the recommended 49 for pavement driving. (More on how in the Extras section below.) I then motored along Highway 6 up and over Loveland Pass, to get a feel for the on-road chops of the R1T. It was predictable in all the best ways. I hardly stepped on the brake since Montezuma, though I wasn’t being reckless. The brake regeneration (another setting you can dial in via the center display) is steady and progressive as you let up off the accelerator, and works well eking more miles out of the R1T. On its highest setting, it will be a wakeup call if you’re the type of driver who tends to let up on the gas quickly. Be a little judicious, and you can drive using essentially only the “gas” pedal, letting up if you need stopping power, with the brake pedal providing additional insurance and a full halt.

    I should mention that, after getting on the highway, I switched from Off-Road mode to All-Purpose. This is the R1T’s happy middle ground, with a middle to low ride height and soft suspension. Here, I did feel a little of the bulk of the truck as I was accelerating. It’s a heavy vehicle (6,700 pounds), which is easy to forget in most instances. But this is still an EV, and thus has an almost stomach-churning amount of giddyup, especially so in Sport mode. This setting lets you lower the ride height to 9.7 inches (as close to the ground as the R1T will go while in motion) and stiffens the suspension to keep the truck level as you take turns sharper and faster than you thought you could. And the way the R1T provides more power to the wheels with the most traction helps when cornering on pavement, too. The four motors facilitate exceptional torque vectoring, functioning more like an open differential in these instances.

    Adaptive cruise control and the Driver+ (Rivian’s name for driver assistance) system are as simple to operate as most of the vehicle’s other functions. Pressing down on the right stalk once activated the cruise, then toggling buttons on the right side of the steering wheel let me set the speed, while moving a nearby scroll wheel put me at a comfortable distance from the car in front of me. Bumping the right stalk down twice kicks in Driver+, which did everything the cruise control did and kept the R1T in its lane. So long as the driver keeps their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, the truck will all but drive for you. Don’t though, and it’ll chime reminders to keep you aware. Driver+ only works on certain mapped roads, and Rivian is working on expanding its mileage to boost the system’s usability. There were times when I wished I could turn it on but wasn’t able to. I’ll note here that the system won’t kick in if you’re in heavy traffic and will turn off if there’s a merge coming up; these could be annoying, but I’d rather have those warnings than not.

    The other mode most applicable to pavement driving is Conserve, which also drops the ride height while disconnecting the front and rear axles to make the R1T effectively front-wheel drive. This helps bump the range up, as systems like the a/c will also dial back to squeeze every last mile out of the battery. At no point during the test drive did I have range anxiety, but it was reassuring to see the miles remaining count on the dash increase when we switched to Conserve.


    The R1T boasts two screens, one behind the steering wheel for the driver and the 16-inch touchscreen in the center for controlling all the systems. Both were very easy to interpret and operate, even while on the move. A row of fixed icons at the bottom of the main display made for simple switching between windows to adjust the drive modes, access the nav, and bring up the camera views, among other functions. Below those sit the climate controls, and though they’re digital, I was thankful to have them always on the screen for quick adjustments as the temperature ranged from the 40s in the morning to around 70 when we pulled back into the hotel parking lot. Tapping the fan icon brought up the full climate screen, and the only thing I didn’t like here was that I had to adjust the angle of the vents by clicking and dragging. Call me old school, but I prefer physical vent controls over having to look down at a screen to tweak those things as I’m driving.

    Rivian’s UI team did a fine job making the screens easy to interpret though, with additional info available if you want it but not necessary for piloting the R1T. Take the ride heights. You can select from a range of them depending on which drive mode you’re in, and the screen will gray out the ones not available to you while also telling you the exact height in inches of the mode you’re in. It takes little guesswork or time spent staring at the screen to know how the settings you’re plugging in will affect the ride.

    Things like adjusting the sideview mirrors are also done from the center display via a driver profile menu. This will save your settings once you’ve got the mirrors and seat how you like them and theoretically allow you to just select your profile when you get in the R1T to revert things to your preferences, say if someone else had been driving and changed things. I say theoretically because our car did experience some issues with the driver profiles not kicking in after we’d saved and selected them, which required manually adjusting the seat and mirrors again. But it was technically still a pre-production model and the bugs should be worked out soon.

    The dash screen is pared down but just as intuitive, showing aspects like speed, range, and selected and available ride heights. Nothing in the R1T feels too busy, which automakers are getting better at as digital displays come of age. Rivian’s got it right on the first try.


    Inside, the R1T is comfortable and spacious. The seats are both heated and ventilated, with 12-way adjustment, and there was plenty of headroom for my 6-foot-2 frame. But most noteworthy is how, as with most electric vehicles, the lack of an engine and mechanical parts frees up room for more internal storage—68 cubic feet, to be exact. The truck has both a front trunk and a gear tunnel, offering storage space you don’t get in gas-engine pickups. Popping the hood accesses the front trunk (which is large enough for suitcases and coolers), and the gear tunnel runs the width of the R1T, positioned between the cab and the bed. I and the other riders in our test vehicle were able to stash our backpacks and everything we needed for the eight-hour day in the tunnel, which you can also access from the cab through a panel in the second row of seats. Main access is from two doors, one on either side of the truck aft of the rear passenger doors.

    And given that the R1T is a rolling battery, there are plenty of places to plug in. A number of USB-C ports complement four 110-volt and three 12-volt outlets, which are spread between the cab and bed for easy charging of phones, external lights while camping, and power tools. Tucked into the driver’s door is a flashlight that you can pop out for some handheld illumination, and a Bluetooth speaker detaches from the base of the center console should you be camping or otherwise want to bring music with you.

    A well-tinted panoramic roof provided views of the sky without blinding me or the passengers.


    Befitting the still-futuristic vibe of EVs, the R1T stands out. The thin, vertically oriented headlamps and bar lights across the front and back provide plenty of illumination. When we stopped at the top of Loveland Pass for a quick break, hikers and tourists in the area didn’t take long to start circling the truck. Even if you haven’t heard of Rivian before (and there were a number of people our crew met during the trip that had, some of them already having ordered their own), it’s hard not to be drawn in by the look.

    The R1T sits between a traditional mid- and full-size pickup, and so the bed is long but not immense. And in addition to the two outlets back there, the bed has a built-in air compressor. That’s how we aired the tires back up once we got off the trail. It’s very easy to use: I simply plugged the hose into the compressor and valve of the tire, set the desired psi on the screen with some button presses, and hit another to start the flow of air. Repeating this process three more times had us back running full rubber. The process took around ten minutes.

    Right by the air compressor are two slots. These are for plugging in the gear security cable. Looking like a giant bike lock, the cable slots into those after you loop it through a bike frame or around some other expensive piece of equipment, and when you press lock on the key fob, it secures the cable. Should someone come along and cut the cable to get at whatever you have in the bed, it’ll sound an alarm and alert you. This is on top of the security cameras that log 30-second bits of footage whenever they sense movement around the parked and locked R1T. You access these videos via the center display in case there was any funny business. That’s if whatever you have in the back is too tall to fit under the lockable tonneau cover. You operate that, the gear tunnel doors, and the gate via buttons on the end of the bed near the rack mounts.

    Approach, departure, and rollover angles are superb as well. There were a number of points along the trail where I thought for sure I would hear some scraping as we tried to go up and over some berm or roll. But, aside from getting hung up on that one rock, the underside (which is protected by an underbody shield) made it out unscathed thanks to the suspension and excellent lines.


    Much of the perks I’ve mentioned above could be considered extras, but the R1T has some add-ons that boost its adventure cred. Take the Camp Kitchen, which most of our meals for the trip were cooked on. This lives in the gear tunnel, sliding out to reveal two electric burners, a sink, two drawers, and a cabinet compartment. Utensils, tableware, and mugs come included, among other things. As someone who isn’t particularly fond of futzing around with camp stoves, I would be hard-pressed to pass up this system, even if it does come at the cost of cargo space. And a Rivian engineer assured me it sips power from the truck’s battery, not noticeably impacting the range even after she’d used it consistently over long-weekend trips without a charge.

    You can also spring for a gear tunnel shuttle (basically a slide-out platform without the kitchen), a rooftop tent and set of bars, and a variety of chargers, recovery kits, and sport-specific mounts. Just know that these also jack up the already considerable price. The Camp Kitchen tacks $5,000 on to the starting $67,000, the Cargo Crossbars cost $450 per pair, and the co-branded Yakima Skyrise HD rooftop tent (with bars) will run you another $2,650.

    The Final Word

    During the drive from the airport to our basecamp in Breckenridge on day one of the trip, Director of Vehicle Dynamics Max Koff mentioned that Rivian’s inspiration for the R1T’s on-road performance was a Porsche Cayan Turbo and Jeep’s Wrangler Rubicon for off-roading. Whereas in the past automakers had to make compromises when developing a car if they wanted it to excel in any one or even a range of things, that’s less of the case now with the unique freedoms and flexibility that EVs afford. And it’s in that enabling balance that the R1T excels. Though it will naturally appeal more to the adventure set, it shouldn’t be intimidating (or won’t be after a few miles) for the average driver, even if the price is. But the EV tax credit will bring that down a bit, and the truck and brand already have a loyal following after those years of careful planning and development. The sold-out R1T pre-orders ship over the next several weeks, with the nearly identical SUV version R1S not far behind them.

    Will Egensteiner Will is an associate test director for Hearst's Enthusiast Group, covering gear and product reviews for Bicycling, Runner's World, and Popular Mechanics.

    This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io