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The prefix " radio-" in the title originates from the combining form of Latin radius, a ray: here it refers to electromagnetic radiation. A Crookes radiometer, consistent with the suffix " -meter" in its title, can provide a quantitative measurement of electromagnetic radiation intensity. This can be done, for example, by visual means (e.g., a spinning slotted disk, which functions as a simple stroboscope) without interfering with the measurement itself. The currently accepted theory was formulated by Osborne Reynolds, who theorized that thermal transpiration was the cause of the motion.  Reynolds found that if a porous plate is kept hotter on one side than the other, the interactions between gas molecules and the plates are such that gas will flow through from the cooler to the hotter side. The vanes of a typical Crookes radiometer are not porous, but the space past their edges behaves like the pores in Reynolds's plate. As gas moves from the cooler to the hotter side, the pressure on the hotter side increases. When the plate is fixed, the pressure on the hotter side increases until the ratio of pressures between the sides equals the square root of the ratio of absolute temperatures. Because the plates in a radiometer are not fixed, the pressure difference from cooler to hotter side causes the vane to move. The cooler (white) side moves forward, pushed by the higher pressure behind it. From a molecular point of view, the vane moves due to the tangential force of the rarefied gas colliding differently with the edges of the vane between the hot and cold sides.  The effect begins to be observed at partial vacuum pressures of several hundred pascals (or several torrs), reaches a peak at around 1 pascal (0.0075 torrs) and has disappeared by the time the vacuum reaches 1 ×10 −4 pascals (7.5 ×10 −7 torrs) ( see explanations note 1). At these very high vacuums the effect of photon radiation pressure on the vanes can be observed in very sensitive apparatus (see Nichols radiometer), but this is insufficient to cause rotation.
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The reason for the rotation was a cause of much scientific debate in the ten years following the invention of the device,   but in 1879 the currently accepted explanation for the rotation was published.   Today the device is mainly used in physics education as a demonstration of a heat engine run by light energy. US 182172,Crookes, William,"Improvement in Apparatus For Indicating The Intensity of Radiation",published 1876-09-12 a b c Kraftmakher, Yaakov (29 August 2014). Experiments and demonstrations in physics (2ed.). Singapore: World Scientific. p.179. ISBN 9789814434904.
The Crookes radiometer (also known as a light mill) consists of an airtight glass bulb containing a partial vacuum, with a set of vanes which are mounted on a spindle inside. The vanes rotate when exposed to light, with faster rotation for more intense light, providing a quantitative measurement of electromagnetic radiation intensity. Wolfe, David; Larraza, Andres (2016). Alejandro Garcia. "A Horizontal Vane Radiometer: Experiment, Theory, and Simulation". Physics of Fluids. 28 (3): 037103. arXiv: 1512.02590. Bibcode: 2016PhFl...28c7103W. doi: 10.1063/1.4943543. S2CID 119235032.
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Maxwell, J. Clerk (1 January 1879). "On stresses in rarefied gases arising from inequalities of temperature". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 170: 231–256. doi: 10.1098/rstl.1879.0067.
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Reynolds, Osborne (1 January 1879). "On certain dimensional properties of matter in the gaseous state …". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 170: 727–845. doi: 10.1098/rstl.1879.0078. ; Part 2. Thermodynamic explanation [ edit ] A Crookes radiometer in action with the light switched on and off. (Note that the explanation given in the caption to the clip doesn't agree with the modern explanation.) Movement with absorption [ edit ]