Why your Phone (And Other Gadgets) Fail You When It’s Cold

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Why your Phone (And Other Gadgets) Fail You When It’s Cold

Postby toucana on February 2nd, 2019, 1:18 pm 


An article orginally published in Wired has recently been widely syndicated online as temperatures plummet across North America and elsewhere.


Written by Megan Molteni it sets out to explain why the charge on the Lithium-ion battery in your mobile phone can “fall off a cliff” in such a spectacular manner if you attempt to use it outside in cold weather.
Lithium-ion batteries suffer so badly in freezing temperatures because they have very little internal resistance,” says Hanumant Singh, an electrical engineer at Northeastern University who builds cold-weather robots for places like Antarctica and Greenland. Less resistance means these batteries generate less waste energy as heat (a good thing in more mild climes). But the absence of waste heat also means they’re more vulnerable when temperatures plummet. The colder it gets, the slower the metabolism of the chemical reaction inside the battery.

Carrying around a smartphone in any weather colder than –35 degrees F, he says, will kill it completely in 5 minutes—right around the time frostbite would strike the hand holding it.

LCD (liquid crystal display) screens fare little better in cold weather.
LCD technology gets sluggish when it gets too hot or too cold. Liquid crystals work best in a Goldilocks temperature range somewhere between 32 and 120 degrees F. The colder it gets, the slower the response time from electrical signal to pixel transition, which degrades the image, making it blurry. Some fluids can make crystals functional all the way down into the negative 60s, but most consumer LCD screens crap out around 40 below. “It’s a chemistry that doesn’t work well in the cold for a completely different reason,” says Singh

One important piece of advice —>
If you do freeze your device, don’t plug it in cold. Allow it to slowly come up to room temperature before you recharge it. Failing to do so sets off a different, unwanted chemical reaction that could damage the battery permanently.
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