Freezing is a phase transition in which a liquid turns into a solid when its temperature is lowered below its freezing point. In contrast, solidification is a similar process where a liquid turns into a solid, not by lowering its temperature, but by increasing the pressure that it is under. Despite this technical distinction, the two processes are very similar and the two terms are often used interchangeably.

For most substances, the melting and freezing points are the same temperature; however, certain substances possess differing solid–liquid transition temperatures. For example, agar displays a hysteresis in its melting point and freezing point. It melts at 85 °C (185 °F) and solidifies from 32 °C to 40 °C (89.6 °F to 104 °F).[1]


Most liquids freeze by crystallization, formation of crystalline solid from the uniform liquid. This is a first-order thermodynamic phase transition, which means that as long as solid and liquid coexist, the temperature of the whole system remains very nearly equal to the melting point due to slow removal of heat when in contact with air, which is a poor heat conductor. Because of the latent heat of fusion, the freezing is greatly slowed down and the temperature will not drop anymore once the freezing starts but will continue dropping once it finishes. Crystallization consists of two major events, nucleation and crystal growth. Nucleation is the step wherein the molecules start to gather into clusters, on the nanometer scale, arranging in a defined and periodic manner that defines the crystal structure. The crystal growth is the subsequent growth of the nuclei that succeed in achieving the critical cluster size.


Rapid formation of ice crystals in supercool water (home freezer experiment)

In spite of the second law of thermodynamics, crystallization of pure liquids usually begins at a lower temperature than the melting point, due to high activation energy of homogeneous nucleation. The creation of a nucleus implies the formation of an interface at the boundaries of the new phase. Some energy is expended to form this interface, based on the surface energy of each phase. If a hypothetical nucleus is too small, the energy that would be released by forming its volume is not enough to create its surface, and nucleation does not proceed. Freezing does not start until the temperature is low enough to provide enough energy to form stable nuclei. In presence of irregularities on the surface of the containing vessel, solid or gaseous impurities, pre-formed solid crystals, or other nucleators, heterogeneous nucleation may occur, where some energy is released by the partial destruction of the previous interface, raising the supercooling point to be near or equal to the melting point. The melting point of water at 1 atmosphere of pressure is very close to 0 °C (32 °F, 273.15 K), and in the presence of nucleating substances the freezing point of water is close to the melting point, but in the absence of nucleators water can supercool to −40 °C (−40 °F, 233 K) before freezing.[2][3] Under high pressure (2,000 atmospheres) water will supercool to as low as −70 °C (−94 °F, 203 K) before freezing.[4]


Freezing is almost always an exothermic process, meaning that as liquid changes into solid, heat and pressure are released. This is often seen as counter-intuitive,[5] since the temperature of the material does not rise during freezing, except if the liquid were supercooled. But this can be understood since heat must be continually removed from the freezing liquid or the freezing process will stop. The energy released upon freezing is a latent heat, and is known as the enthalpy of fusion and is exactly the same as the energy required to melt the same amount of the solid.

Low-temperature helium is the only known exception to the general rule.[6] Helium-3 has a negative enthalpy of fusion at temperatures below 0.3 K. Helium-4 also has a very slightly negative enthalpy of fusion below 0.8 K. This means that, at appropriate constant pressures, heat must be added to these substances in order to freeze them.[7]


Certain materials, such as glass and glycerol, may harden without crystallizing; these are called amorphous solids. Amorphous materials, as well as some polymers, do not have a freezing point, as there is no abrupt phase change at any specific temperature. Instead, there is a gradual change in their viscoelastic properties over a range of temperatures. Such materials are characterized by a glass transition that occurs at a glass transition temperature, which may be roughly defined as the "knee" point of the material's density vs. temperature graph. Because vitrification is a non-equilibrium process, it does not qualify as freezing, which requires an equilibrium between the crystalline and liquid state.


Some substances, such as water and bismuth, expand when frozen.

Freezing of living organisms

Many living organisms are able to tolerate prolonged periods of time at temperatures below the freezing point of water. Most living organisms accumulate cryoprotectants such as anti-nucleating proteins, polyols, and glucose to protect themselves against frost damage by sharp ice crystals. Most plants, in particular, can safely reach temperatures of −4 °C to −12 °C. Certain bacteria, notably Pseudomonas syringae, produce specialized proteins that serve as potent ice nucleators, which they use to force ice formation on the surface of various fruits and plants at about −2 °C.[8] The freezing causes injuries in the epithelia and makes the nutrients in the underlying plant tissues available to the bacteria.[9]


Three species of bacteria, Carnobacterium pleistocenium, as well as Chryseobacterium greenlandensis and Herminiimonas glaciei, have reportedly been revived after surviving for thousands of years frozen in ice.


Many plants undergo a process called hardening, which allows them to survive temperatures below 0 °C for weeks to months.


The nematode Haemonchus contortus can survive 44 weeks frozen at liquid nitrogen temperatures. Other nematodes that survive at temperatures below 0 °C include Trichostrongylus colubriformis and Panagrolaimus davidi. Many species of reptiles and amphibians survive freezing. See cryobiology for a full discussion.

Human gametes and 2-, 4- and 8-cell embryos can survive freezing and are viable for up to 10 years, a process known as cryopreservation.

Experimental attempts to freeze human beings for later revival are known as cryonics.

Food preservation

Freezing is a common method of food preservation that slows both food decay and the growth of micro-organisms. Besides the effect of lower temperatures on reaction rates, freezing makes water less available for bacterial growth.

See also

Phase transitions of matter ()
basic To
Solid Liquid Gas Plasma
From Solid Melting Sublimation
Liquid Freezing Vaporization
Gas Deposition Condensation Ionization
Plasma Recombination


  1. ^ "All About Agar". Archived from the original on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-27.
  2. ^ Lundheim R. (2002). "Physiological and ecological significance of biological ice nucleators". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 357 (1423): 937–943. doi:10.1098/rstb.2002.1082. PMC 1693005. PMID 12171657.
  3. ^ Franks F. (2003). "Nucleation of ice and its management in ecosystems" (PDF). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 361 (1804): 557–574. Bibcode:2003RSPTA.361..557F. doi:10.1098/rsta.2002.1141. PMID 12662454.
  4. ^ Jeffery, CA; Austin, PH (November 1997). "Homogeneous nucleation of supercooled water: Results from a new equation of state". Journal of Geophysical Research. 102 (D21): 25269–25280. Bibcode:1997JGR...10225269J. CiteSeerX doi:10.1029/97JD02243.
  5. ^ What is an exothermic reaction? Scientific American, 1999
  6. ^ Atkins, Peter; Jones, Loretta (2008), Chemical Principles: The Quest for Insight (4th ed.), W. H. Freeman and Company, p. 236, ISBN 0-7167-7355-4
  7. ^ Ott, J. Bevan; Boerio-Goates, Juliana (2000), Chemical Thermodynamics: Advanced Applications, Academic Press, pp. 92–93, ISBN 0-12-530985-6
  8. ^ Maki LR, Galyan EL, Chang-Chien MM, Caldwell DR (1974). "Ice nucleation induced by Pseudomonas syringae". Applied Microbiology. 28 (3): 456–459. PMC 186742. PMID 4371331.
  9. ^ Zachariassen KE, Kristiansen E (2000). "Ice nucleation and antinucleation in nature". Cryobiology. 41 (4): 257–279. doi:10.1006/cryo.2000.2289. PMID 11222024.

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Cryonics (from Greek κρύος kryos meaning 'cold') is the low-temperature freezing (usually at −196 °C (−320.8 °F; 77.1 K)) of a human corpse, with the hope that resuscitation may be possible in the future. It is regarded with skepticism within the mainstream scientific community and has been characterized as quackery.Cryonics procedures can begin only after clinical death, and cryonics "patients" are legally dead. Cryonics procedures ideally begin within minutes of death, and use cryoprotectants to prevent ice formation during cryopreservation. It is unlikely that a corpse could be reanimated after undergoing vitrification, which causes damage to the brain including its neural networks. The first corpse to be frozen was that of Dr. James Bedford in 1967. As of 2014, about 250 bodies were cryopreserved in the United States, and 1,500 people had made arrangements for cryopreservation after their legal death.


Cryo-preservation or cryo-conservation is a process where organelles, cells, tissues, extracellular matrix, organs, or any other biological constructs susceptible to damage caused by unregulated chemical kinetics are preserved by cooling to very low temperatures (typically −80 °C using solid carbon dioxide or −196 °C using liquid nitrogen). At low enough temperatures, any enzymatic or chemical activity which might cause damage to the biological material in question is effectively stopped. Cryopreservation methods seek to reach low temperatures without causing additional damage caused by the formation of ice crystals during freezing. Traditional cryopreservation has relied on coating the material to be frozen with a class of molecules termed cryoprotectants. New methods are constantly being investigated due to the inherent toxicity of many cryoprotectants. By default it should be considered that cryopreservation alters or compromises the structure and function of cells unless it is proven otherwise for a particular cell population. Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources is the process in which animal genetic material is collected and stored with the intention of conservation of the breed.

Enthalpy of fusion

The enthalpy of fusion of a substance, also known as (latent) heat of fusion, is the change in its enthalpy resulting from providing energy, typically heat, to a specific quantity of the substance to change its state from a solid to a liquid, at constant pressure. For example, when melting 1 kg of ice (at 0 °C under a wide range of pressures), 333.55 kJ of energy is absorbed with no temperature change. The heat of solidification (when a substance changes from liquid to solid) is equal and opposite.

This energy includes the contribution required to make room for any associated change in volume by displacing its environment against ambient pressure. The temperature at which the phase transition occurs is the melting point or the freezing point, according to context. By convention, the pressure is assumed to be 1 atm (101.325 kPa) unless otherwise specified.


The Fahrenheit scale is a temperature scale based on one proposed in 1724 by Dutch–German–Polish physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686–1736). It uses the degree Fahrenheit (symbol: °F) as the unit. Several accounts of how he originally defined his scale exist. The lower defining point, 0 °F, was established as the freezing temperature of a solution of brine made from equal parts of ice, water and salt (ammonium chloride). Further limits were established as the melting point of ice (32 °F) and his best estimate of the average human body temperature (96 °F, about 2.6 °F less than the modern value due to a later redefinition of the scale). The scale is now usually defined by two fixed points: the temperature at which water freezes into ice is defined as 32 °F, and the boiling point of water is defined to be 212 °F, a 180 °F separation, as defined at sea level and standard atmospheric pressure.

At the end of the 2010s, Fahrenheit was used as the official temperature scale only in the United States (including its unincorporated territories), its freely associated states in the Western Pacific (Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands), the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Liberia. Antigua and Barbuda and other islands which use the same meteorological service, such as Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as Bermuda, Belize and the Turks and Caicos Islands, use Fahrenheit and Celsius. All other countries in the world officially now use the Celsius scale, named after Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius.


Fog is a visible aerosol consisting of tiny water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. Fog can be considered a type of low-lying cloud, usually resembling stratus, and is heavily influenced by nearby bodies of water, topography, and wind conditions. In turn, fog has affected many human activities, such as shipping, travel, and warfare.

Freezing-point depression

Freezing-point depression is the decrease of the freezing point of a solvent on the addition of a non-volatile solute. Examples include salt in water, alcohol in water, or the mixing of two solids such as impurities into a finely powdered drug. In the last case, the added compound is the solute, and the original solid is thought of as the solvent. The resulting solution or solid-solid mixture has a lower freezing point than the pure solvent or solid. This phenomenon is what causes sea water, (a mixture of salt [and other things] in water) to remain liquid at temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F), the freezing point of pure water.

Freezing rain

Freezing rain is the name given to rain maintained at temperatures below freezing by the ambient air mass that causes freezing on contact with surfaces. Unlike a mixture of rain and snow, ice pellets, or hail, freezing rain is made entirely of liquid droplets. The raindrops become supercooled while passing through a sub-freezing layer of air hundreds of meters above the ground, and then freeze upon impact with any surface they encounter, including the ground, trees, electrical wires, aircraft, and automobiles. The resulting ice, called glaze ice, can accumulate to a thickness of several centimeters and cover all exposed surfaces. The METAR code for freezing rain is FZRA.

A storm that produces a significant thickness of glaze ice from freezing rain is often referred to as an ice storm. Although these storms are not particularly violent, freezing rain is notorious for causing travel problems on roadways, breaking tree limbs, and downing power lines from the weight of accumulating ice. Downed power lines cause power outages in affected areas while accumulated ice can also pose significant overhead hazards. It is also known for being extremely dangerous to aircraft since the ice can effectively 'remould' the shape of the airfoil and flight control surfaces. (See atmospheric icing.)


Frost is a thin layer of ice on a solid surface, which forms from water vapor in an above freezing atmosphere coming in contact with a solid surface whose temperature is below freezing, and resulting in a phase change from water vapor (a gas) to ice (a solid) as the water vapor reaches the freezing point. In temperate climates, it most commonly appears on surfaces near the ground as fragile white crystals; in cold climates, it occurs in a greater variety of forms. The propagation of crystal formation occurs by the process of nucleation.

The ice crystals of frost form as the result of fractal process development. The depth of frost crystals varies depending on the amount of time they have been accumulating, and the concentration of the water vapor (humidity). Frost crystals may be invisible (black), clear (translucent), or white; if a mass of frost crystals scatters light in all directions, the coating of frost appears white.

Types of frost include crystalline frost (hoar frost, hoarfrost, radiation frost) from deposition of water vapor from air of low humidity, white frost in humid conditions, window frost on glass surfaces, advection frost from cold wind over cold surfaces, black frost without visible ice at low temperatures and very low humidity, and rime under supercooled wet conditions.Plants that have evolved in warmer climates suffer damage when the temperature falls low enough to freeze the water in the cells that make up the plant tissue. The tissue damage resulting from this process is known as "frost damage". Farmers in those regions where frost damage is known to affect their crops often invest in substantial means to protect their crops from such damage.


Frostbite occurs when exposure to low temperatures causes freezing of the skin or other tissues. The initial symptom is typically numbness. This may be followed by clumsiness with a white or bluish color to the skin. Swelling or blistering may occur following treatment. The hands, feet, and face are most commonly affected. Complications may include hypothermia or compartment syndrome.People who are exposed to low temperatures for prolonged periods, such as winter sports enthusiasts, military personnel, and homeless individuals, are at greatest risk. Other risk factors include drinking alcohol, smoking, mental health problems, certain medications, and prior injuries due to cold. The underlying mechanism involves injury from ice crystals and blood clots in small blood vessels following thawing. Diagnosis is based on symptoms. Severity may be divided into superficial (1st and 2nd degree) or deep (3rd and 4th degree). A bone scan or MRI may help in determining the extent of injury.Prevention is through wearing proper clothing, maintaining hydration and nutrition, avoiding low temperatures, and staying active without becoming exhausted. Treatment is by rewarming. This should be done only when refreezing is not a concern. Rubbing or applying snow to the affected part is not recommended. The use of ibuprofen and tetanus toxoid is typically recommended. For severe injuries iloprost or thrombolytics may be used. Surgery is sometimes necessary. Amputation, however, should generally be delayed for a few months to allow determination of the extent of injury.The number of cases of frostbite is unknown. Rates may be as high as 40% a year among those who mountaineer. The most common age group affected is those 30 to 50 years old. Evidence of frostbite occurring in people dates back 5,000 years. Frostbite has also played an important role in a number of military conflicts. The first formal description of the condition was in 1813 by Dominique Jean Larrey, a physician in Napoleon's army, during its invasion of Russia.

Frozen food

Freezing food preserves it from the time it is prepared to the time it is eaten. Since early times, farmers, fishermen, and trappers have preserved grains and produce in unheated buildings during the winter season. Freezing food slows down decomposition by turning residual moisture into ice, inhibiting the growth of most bacterial species. In the food commodity industry, there are two processes: mechanical and cryogenic (or flash freezing). The freezing kinetics is important to preserve the food quality and texture. Quicker freezing generates smaller ice crystals and maintains cellular structure. Cryogenic freezing is the quickest freezing technology available due to the ultra low liquid nitrogen temperature −196 °C (−320 °F).Preserving food in domestic kitchens during modern times is achieved using household freezers. Accepted advice to householders was to freeze food on the day of purchase. An initiative by a supermarket group in 2012 (backed by the UK's Waste & Resources Action Programme) promotes the freezing of food "as soon as possible up to the product's 'use by' date". The Food Standards Agency was reported as supporting the change, providing the food had been stored correctly up to that time.


Hypothermia is reduced body temperature that happens when a body dissipates more heat than it absorbs. In humans, it is defined as a body core temperature below 35.0 °C (95.0 °F). Symptoms depend on the temperature. In mild hypothermia there is shivering and mental confusion. In moderate hypothermia shivering stops and confusion increases. In severe hypothermia, there may be paradoxical undressing, in which a person removes their clothing, as well as an increased risk of the heart stopping.Hypothermia has two main types of causes. It classically occurs from exposure to extreme cold. It may also occur from any condition that decreases heat production or increases heat loss. Commonly this includes alcohol intoxication but may also include low blood sugar, anorexia, and advanced age. Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant level of 36.5–37.5 °C (97.7–99.5 °F) through thermoregulation. Efforts to increase body temperature involve shivering, increased voluntary activity, and putting on warmer clothing. Hypothermia may be diagnosed based on either a person's symptoms in the presence of risk factors or by measuring a person's core temperature.The treatment of mild hypothermia involves warm drinks, warm clothing, and physical activity. In those with moderate hypothermia, heating blankets and warmed intravenous fluids are recommended. People with moderate or severe hypothermia should be moved gently. In severe hypothermia, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) or cardiopulmonary bypass may be useful. In those without a pulse, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is indicated along with the above measures. Rewarming is typically continued until a person's temperature is greater than 32 °C (90 °F). If there is no improvement at this point or the blood potassium level is greater than 12 mmol/liter at any time, resuscitation may be discontinued.Hypothermia is the cause of at least 1,500 deaths a year in the United States. It is more common in older people and males. One of the lowest documented body temperatures from which someone with accidental hypothermia has survived is 13.0 °C (55.4 °F) in a near-drowning of a 7-year-old girl in Sweden. Survival after more than six hours of CPR has been described. For those for whom ECMO or bypass is used, survival is around 50%. Deaths due to hypothermia have played an important role in many wars. The term is from Greek ὑπο, hupo, meaning "under", and θερμία, thermía, meaning "heat". The opposite of hypothermia is hyperthermia, an increased body temperature due to failed thermoregulation.

Ice storm

An ice storm is a type of winter storm characterized by freezing rain, also known as a glaze event or, in some parts of the United States, as a silver thaw. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an ice storm as a storm which results in the accumulation of at least 0.25-inch (6.4 mm) of ice on exposed surfaces. From 1982 to 1994, ice storms were more common than blizzards in the U.S., averaging 16 per year. They are generally not violent storms but instead are commonly perceived as gentle rains occurring at temperatures just below freezing.

Liquid nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen is nitrogen in a liquid state at an extremely low temperature. It is a colorless liquid with a density of 0.807 g/ml at its boiling point (−195.79 °C (77 K; −320 °F)) and a dielectric constant of 1.43. Nitrogen was first liquefied at the Jagiellonian University on 15 April 1883 by Polish physicists, Zygmunt Wróblewski and Karol Olszewski. It is produced industrially by fractional distillation of liquid air. Liquid nitrogen is often referred to by the abbreviation, LN2 or "LIN" or "LN" and has the UN number 1977. Liquid nitrogen is a diatomic liquid, which means that the diatomic character of the covalent N bonding in N2 gas is retained after liquefaction.Liquid nitrogen is a cryogenic fluid that can cause rapid freezing on contact with living tissue. When appropriately insulated from ambient heat, liquid nitrogen can be stored and transported, for example in vacuum flasks. The temperature is held constant at 77 K by slow boiling of the liquid, resulting in the evolution of nitrogen gas. Depending on the size and design, the holding time of vacuum flasks ranges from a few hours to a few weeks. The development of pressurised super-insulated vacuum vessels has enabled liquefied nitrogen to be stored and transported over longer time periods with losses reduced to 2% per day or less.The temperature of liquid nitrogen can readily be reduced to its freezing point 63 K (−210 °C; −346 °F) by placing it in a vacuum chamber pumped by a vacuum pump. Liquid nitrogen's efficiency as a coolant is limited by the fact that it boils immediately on contact with a warmer object, enveloping the object in insulating nitrogen gas. This effect, known as the Leidenfrost effect, applies to any liquid in contact with an object significantly hotter than its boiling point. Faster cooling may be obtained by plunging an object into a slush of liquid and solid nitrogen rather than liquid nitrogen alone.


Melting, or fusion, is a physical process that results in the phase transition of a substance from a solid to a liquid. This occurs when the internal energy of the solid increases, typically by the application of heat or pressure, which increases the substance's temperature to the melting point. At the melting point, the ordering of ions or molecules in the solid breaks down to a less ordered state, and the solid melts to become a liquid.

Substances in the molten state generally have reduced viscosity as the temperature increases. An exception to this principle is the element sulfur, whose viscosity increases to a point due to polymerization and then decreases with higher temperatures in its molten state.Some organic compounds melt through mesophases, states of partial order between solid and liquid.

Melting point

The melting point (or, rarely, liquefaction point) of a substance is the temperature at which it changes state from solid to liquid. At the melting point the solid and liquid phase exist in equilibrium. The melting point of a substance depends on pressure and is usually specified at a standard pressure such as 1 atmosphere or 100 kPa.

When considered as the temperature of the reverse change from liquid to solid, it is referred to as the freezing point or crystallization point. Because of the ability of some substances to supercool, the freezing point is not considered as a characteristic property of a substance. When the "characteristic freezing point" of a substance is determined, in fact the actual methodology is almost always "the principle of observing the disappearance rather than the formation of ice", that is, the melting point.

Severe weather terminology (United States)

This article describes severe weather terminology used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in the United States. The NWS, a government agency operating as an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) branch of the United States Department of Commerce (DoC), defines precise meanings for nearly all of its weather terms. This article describes NWS terminology and related weather scales used by the agency. Some terms may be specific to certain cities or regions.


A slaughterhouse or abattoir ( (listen)) is a facility where animals are slaughtered, most often (though not always) to provide food for humans. Slaughterhouses supply meat, which then becomes the responsibility of a packaging facility.

Slaughterhouses that produce meat that is not intended to be eaten by humans are sometimes referred to as knacker's yards or knackeries. This is where animals are slaughtered that are not fit for human consumption or that can no longer work on a farm, such as retired work horses.

Slaughtering animals on a large scale poses significant problems in terms of logistics, animal welfare, and the environment, and the process must meet public health requirements. Due to public aversion in many cultures, determining where to build slaughterhouses is also a matter of some consideration.

Frequently, groups representing animal welfare and rights (and occasionally academics) raise concerns about the methods of transport to and from slaughterhouses, preparation prior to slaughter, animal herding, and the killing itself.


Supercooling, also known as undercooling, is the process of lowering the temperature of a liquid or a gas below its freezing point without it becoming a solid.

Winter storm

A winter storm is an event in which varieties of precipitation are formed that only occur at low temperatures, such as snow or sleet, or a rainstorm where ground temperatures are low enough to allow ice to form (i.e. freezing rain). In temperate continental climates, these storms are not necessarily restricted to the winter season, but may occur in the late autumn and early spring as well. Very rarely, they may form in summer, though it would have to be an abnormally cold summer, such as the summer of 1816 in the Northeastern United States.

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