Liquid vs. Molten

What's the Difference?

Liquid and molten are both states of matter that describe substances in a fluid form. However, there are some key differences between the two. Liquid refers to the state of matter in which a substance has a definite volume but no definite shape, meaning it takes the shape of its container. On the other hand, molten specifically refers to a substance that has been heated to its melting point, resulting in a liquid state. This means that while all molten substances are liquids, not all liquids are molten. Additionally, molten substances are often associated with high temperatures, as they have undergone a phase change from a solid to a liquid due to heating.


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State of MatterLiquidMolten
DefinitionA state of matter with a definite volume but no definite shapeA substance in its liquid state due to being heated to its melting point
Temperature RangeVaries depending on the substanceVaries depending on the substance
Particle ArrangementParticles are close together but can move freelyParticles are close together but can move freely
ShapeTakes the shape of its containerTakes the shape of its container
VolumeHas a definite volumeHas a definite volume
Intermolecular ForcesWeak intermolecular forcesWeak intermolecular forces
ExamplesWater, milk, oilMolten iron, molten glass, molten lava
Photo by refargotohp on Unsplash

Further Detail


Liquid and molten are two terms often used interchangeably to describe substances in their fluid state. However, there are subtle differences between the two that are worth exploring. In this article, we will delve into the attributes of liquid and molten, highlighting their unique characteristics and discussing their applications in various fields.

Definition and Properties

Liquid is a state of matter where particles are loosely packed and can flow freely, taking the shape of the container they occupy. Liquids have a definite volume but no fixed shape. They exhibit surface tension, viscosity, and can be compressed to a limited extent. Examples of liquids include water, oil, and alcohol.

Molten, on the other hand, refers specifically to substances that are in their liquid state due to being heated to a high temperature. It is the result of a solid material undergoing a phase change into a liquid due to the application of heat. Molten substances have a high temperature and can be poured or molded into different shapes. Examples of molten substances include molten lava, molten metal, and molten glass.

Physical Differences

One of the key physical differences between liquid and molten is their temperature. Liquids can exist at various temperatures, including room temperature, while molten substances are always at a high temperature due to the heat required to melt them. This temperature disparity is crucial in understanding their behavior and applications.

Another difference lies in their ability to solidify. Liquids can solidify by reducing their temperature, forming a solid with a fixed shape. On the other hand, molten substances solidify when their high temperature is reduced, transitioning from a liquid to a solid state. This solidification process is often used in manufacturing and metallurgy to shape and mold materials.

Viscosity is another contrasting attribute. Liquids can have varying viscosities, ranging from low (like water) to high (like honey). Viscosity refers to a liquid's resistance to flow. In contrast, molten substances generally have lower viscosities due to their high temperatures, allowing them to flow more easily and be poured or cast into molds.

Surface tension is a property exhibited by liquids but not by molten substances. Liquids tend to minimize their surface area, resulting in a thin "skin" on the surface due to intermolecular forces. This property is responsible for phenomena like capillary action and droplet formation. Molten substances, being at a high temperature, lack this cohesive force and do not exhibit surface tension.

Lastly, compressibility is another differentiating factor. Liquids are generally considered to be incompressible, meaning their volume remains relatively constant even under pressure. On the other hand, molten substances can be compressed to some extent due to their higher temperature and the increased kinetic energy of their particles.


The attributes of liquid and molten make them suitable for various applications in different fields. Liquids find extensive use in everyday life, industry, and scientific research. Water, for instance, is essential for human survival and is used for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Liquids like oil and alcohol are used in cooking, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.

Molten substances, due to their high temperature and ability to be molded, have specific applications in manufacturing and metallurgy. Molten metal is commonly used in foundries to cast intricate shapes for various industries, including automotive, aerospace, and construction. Molten glass is used in the production of windows, bottles, and other glassware. Molten lava, although not directly utilized, plays a significant role in volcanic studies and geological research.

Furthermore, the unique properties of liquids and molten substances have implications in scientific experiments and research. Liquids are often used as solvents in chemistry to dissolve and react with other substances. They are also employed in chromatography techniques for separation and analysis. Molten substances, on the other hand, are utilized in high-temperature experiments, such as studying the behavior of materials under extreme conditions or investigating phase changes.


In conclusion, while liquid and molten are both terms used to describe substances in their fluid state, they possess distinct attributes that set them apart. Liquids are characterized by their ability to flow, varying viscosities, surface tension, and incompressibility. Molten substances, on the other hand, are always at a high temperature, can be poured or molded, have lower viscosities, lack surface tension, and can be compressed to some extent. Understanding these differences is crucial in comprehending their behavior and applications in various fields, from everyday life to industry and scientific research.

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