Here's why your phone shuts down in the cold

"Brave the Elements" is an ongoing feature where we examine how chemicals shape the world around us.

Cold weather is here and that can impact your phone's performance.

Once the temperature dips past the freezing mark, smartphone batteries can drain faster or suddenly shut down.

That's because most mobile devices are powered by lithium-ion batteries -- and lithium doesn't react well to the cold.

Lithium ion batteries typically function between -20 and 60 degrees Celsius but can quickly degrade in these extreme conditions. This is temperature can determine the rate of electrochemical reactions.

The electrolyte within the battery moves slower when temperatures are colder, and this reduces the ability to move ions, which are electrically charged particles, and is what generates the energy. The metals within the battery that carry ions also behave differently when the temperature changes and can compromise its performance.

This is why our cellphones with lithium batteries drain faster during a freeze -- or can even suddenly shut down.

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If your phone shuts down in cold weather, experts recommend waiting until you're inside and your phone has warmed up before attempting to restart it.

When outdoors, try to keep your phone warm by insulating it with a case and/or your pocket.


Thumbnail image courtesy of Getty Images