An Unexpected Heat Engine

K. P. Trout, Charles A. Gaston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


It's common knowledge that light can produce chemical and electronic changes (photography is based on those effects); however, many people consider light to have no mechanical effect. Some are familiar with the novelty of a radiometer that spins when placed in the light. Fewer are aware that a cymbal will vibrate audibly if hit by the light from a camera flash.1 It came to our attention that the bubble in an ultra-sensitive level would move toward a flashlight beamed at the level from one end. Our investigations of this phenomenon show that it is thermal in nature and the effect large enough to be demonstrated in a classroom. With the addition of a small heating wire, the bubble level can be converted into a small heat engine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-34
Number of pages3
JournalPhysics Teacher
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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