The melting point (or, rarely, liquefaction point) of a solid 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 (usually slightly) on pressure and is usually specified at standard pressure. 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.
For most substances, melting and freezing points are approximately equal. For example, the melting point and freezing point of the element mercury is 234.32 kelvin (−38.83 °C or −37.89 °F). 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); such direction dependence is known as hysteresis.
The melting point of ice at 1 atmosphere of pressure is very close to 0 °C (32 °F, 273.15 K); this is also known as the ice point. In the presence of nucleating substances the freezing point of water is the same as the melting point, but in the absence of nucleators water can supercool to −42 °C (−43.6 °F, 231 K) before freezing.
The chemical element with the second highest melting point is tungsten, at 3695 K (3422 °C, 6192 °F) making it excellent for use as filaments in light bulbs. The often-cited carbon does not melt at ambient pressure but sublimes at about 4000 K; a liquid phase only exists above pressures of 10 MPa and estimated 4300–4700 K. Tantalum hafnium carbide (Ta4HfC5) is a refractory compound with a very high melting point of 4488 K (4215 °C, 7619 °F). At the other end of the scale, helium does not freeze at all at normal pressure, even at temperatures very close to absolute zero; pressures over 20 times normal atmospheric pressure are necessary.
Many laboratory techniques exist for the determination of melting points. A Kofler bench is a metal strip with a temperature gradient (range from room temperature to 300 °C). Any substance can be placed on a section of the strip revealing its thermal behaviour at the temperature at that point. Differential scanning calorimetry gives information on melting point together with its enthalpy of fusion.