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In physics and chemistry, freezing is the process whereby a liquid turns to a solid. The freezing point is the temperature at which this happens. Melting, the process of turning a solid to a liquid, is the opposite of freezing. All known liquids undergo freezing when the temperature is lowered with the sole exception of helium, which remains fluid at absolute zero and can only be solidified under pressure. For most substances, the melting and freezing points are the same temperature, however, certain substances possess differing solid-liquid transition temperatures. For example, agar melts at 85 °C (185 °F) and solidifies from 31 °C to 40 °C (89.6 °F to 104 °F); this process is known as thermal hysteresis.
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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 equilibrium temperature of the system remains constant and equal to the melting point. Crystallization consists of two major events, nucleation and crystal growth. Nucleation is the step where 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.
In spite of the second law of thermodynamics, crystallization of pure liquids usually begins at 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, rising 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 −42 °C (−43.6 °F, 231 K) before freezing. Under high pressure (2,000 atmospheres) water will supercool to as low as −70°C (−94°F, 203 K) before freezing.
Certain materials, such as glass or glycerol, may harden without crystallizing; these are called amorphous solids. Amorphous materials as well as some polymers do not have a true 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 temperature which may be roughly defined as the "knee" point of the material's density vs. temperature graph.
Freezing of biological fluids
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. The freezing causes injuries in the epithelia and makes the nutrients in the underlying plant tissues available to the bacteria. 
Freezing is a common method of food preservation which 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.
Look up freezing in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Categories: Phase changes | Atmospheric thermodynamics
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Freezing". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|