Melting is a process that results in the phase change of a substance from a solid to a liquid. The internal energy of a solid substance is increased (typically by the application of heat) to a specific temperature (called the melting point) at which it changes to the liquid phase. An object that has melted completely is molten.

The melting point of a substance is a characteristic property. The melting point may not be equal to the freezing point. This is evident in the phenomenon known as supercooling. In the case of water, ice crystals typically require a seed on which to begin formation. Water on a very clean glass surface will often supercool several degrees below the melting point without freezing. Fine emulsions of pure water have been cooled to -38 degrees celsius without the nucleation of ice taking place. For this reason, melting point is a characteristic property of a substance while freezing point is not.

Molecular vibrations

When the internal energy of a solid is increased by the application of an external energy source, the molecular vibrations of the substance increases. As these vibrations increase, the substance becomes less and less ordered. Fusion is also another term used for this.

Constant temperature

Substances melt at a constant temperature, the melting point. Further increases in temperature (even with continued application of energy) do not occur until the substance is molten.

The thermodynamics of melting

From a thermodynamics point of view, at the melting point the change in Gibbs free energy (Delta G) of the Material is zero, because the enthalpy (H) and the entropy (S) of the material are increasing (Delta H, Delta S > 0). Melting phenomenon happens when the Gibbs free energy of the liquid becomes lower than the solid for that material. At various pressures this happens at a specific temperature. It can also be shown that:

Delta S = frac {Delta H} {T}

The "T","Delta S", and "Delta H" in the above are respectively the temperature at the melting point, change of entropy of melting, and the change of enthalpy of melting.


Other meanings

In genetics, melting DNA means to separate the double-stranded DNA into two single strands by heating or the use of chemicals.
See also : Polymerase chain reaction

See also

From To
Solid Liquid Gas Plasma
Solid N/A Melting Sublimation -
Liquid Freezing N/A Boiling/Evaporation -
Gas Deposition Condensation N/A Ionization
Plasma - - Recombination/Deionization N/A

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