Also found in: Wikipedia.
A phenomenon in which a physical quantity depends not only on the temperature but also on the preceding thermal history. It is usual to compare the behavior of the physical quantity while heating and the behavior while cooling through the same temperature range. The illustration shows the thermal hysteresis which has been observed in the behavior of the dielectric constant of single crystals of barium titanate. On heating, the dielectric constant was observed to follow the path ABCD, and on cooling the path DCEFG. See Ferroelectrics
Perhaps the most common example of thermal hysteresis involves a phase change such as solidification from the liquid phase. In many cases these liquids can be dramatically supercooled. Elaborate precautions to eliminate impurities and outside disturbances can be instrumental in supercooling 60 to 80°C. On raising the temperature after freezing, however, the system follows a completely different path, with melting coming at the prescribed temperature for the phase change. See Crystal, Phase transitions