Brownian motion or pedesis (from Ancient Greek: πήδησις /pέːdεːsis/ "leaping") is the random motion of particles suspended in a fluid (a liquid or a gas) resulting from their collision with the fast-moving molecules in the fluid.
This pattern of motion typically alternates random fluctuations in a particle's position inside a fluid sub-domain with a relocation to another sub-domain. Each relocation is followed by more fluctuations within the new closed volume. This pattern describes a fluid at thermal equilibrium, defined by a given temperature. Within such fluid there exists no preferential direction of flow as in transport phenomena. More specifically the fluid's overall linear and angular momenta remain null over time. It is important also to note that the kinetic energies of the molecular Brownian motions, together with those of molecular rotations and vibrations sum up to the caloric component of a fluid’s internal energy.
This motion is named after the botanist Robert Brown. In 1827, while looking through a microscope at particles trapped in cavities inside pollen grains in water, he noted that the particles moved through the water; but he was not able to determine the mechanisms that caused this motion. Atoms and molecules had long been theorized as the constituents of matter, and Albert Einstein published a paper in 1905 that explained in precise detail how the motion that Brown had observed was a result of the pollen being moved by individual water molecules, making one of his first big contributions to science. This explanation of Brownian motion served as convincing evidence that atoms and molecules exist, and was further verified experimentally by Jean Perrin in 1908. Perrin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1926 "for his work on the discontinuous structure of matter". The direction of the force of atomic bombardment is constantly changing, and at different times the particle is hit more on one side than another, leading to the seemingly random nature of the motion.
The many-body interactions that yield the Brownian pattern cannot be solved by a model accounting for every involved molecule. In consequence only probabilistic models applied to molecular populations can be employed to describe it. Two such models of the statistical mechanics, due to Einstein and Smoluchowski are presented below. Another, pure probabilistic class of models is the class of the stochastic process models. There exist both simpler and more complicated stochastic processes which in extreme ("taken to the limit") may describe the Brownian Motion (see random walk and Donsker's theorem).
The Roman Lucretius's scientific poem "On the Nature of Things" (c. 60 BC) has a remarkable description of Brownian motion of dust particles in verses 113–140 from Book II. He uses this as a proof of the existence of atoms:
"Observe what happens when sunbeams are admitted into a building and shed light on its shadowy places. You will see a multitude of tiny particles mingling in a multitude of ways... their dancing is an actual indication of underlying movements of matter that are hidden from our sight... It originates with the atoms which move of themselves . Then those small compound bodies that are least removed from the impetus of the atoms are set in motion by the impact of their invisible blows and in turn cannon against slightly larger bodies. So the movement mounts up from the atoms and gradually emerges to the level of our senses, so that those bodies are in motion that we see in sunbeams, moved by blows that remain invisible."
Although the mingling motion of dust particles is caused largely by air currents, the glittering, tumbling motion of small dust particles is, indeed, caused chiefly by true Brownian dynamics.