This usage is uncommon but by no means unknown, and has been applied by a wide variety of people in an equally wide variety of situations. And, in the right context, yes, it does make sense.
The most compelling uses of it (to my ear) are when an entity is perceived to be "built up" upon a more primitive entity, and when it's possible for that superstructure to "break", and fall away, leaving the whole thing in a previous, lesser, state. In other words, when the reduction is discrete rather than continuous, and in particular when the loss is significant.
On to the evidence, then.
Applications of the Idiom
The phrase "break down to a lower level" meaning "to be reduced" is not common, but it does enjoy some currency in the wild; it doesn't appear to be isolated to physics or indeed to any particular community.
For example, here is an apartment posting on Craigslist:
Our new move-in special is six weeks of free rent which breaks down to a lower rent over 14 months
and a similar use appears in Forbes:
While the average price is a little higher than in Atlanta, it does include two more concerts and breaks down to a lower average price per show at $126.77
One could argue that "breaks down to" in the preceding passages is intended to be interpreted "can be analyzed as", but it's debatable.
But even then, we do see evidence, in the wild, of unambiguous applications the "break down"="reduce" idiom, like this absolutely spot-on quote from a popular science book aimed at the general public:
Mass can also appear from a dimension reduction: the idea that a universe that is based on ten or eleven dimensions "breaks down" to a lower-dimensional space of only four evident dimensions.
If that skirts too close to the "physicists use language weirdly, even when talking to laymen" line for you, here's a couple of identical usages by non-physicists.
A commodities trading blogger:
But the conclusion is that until the [price of gold] breaks down to a lower low, the current situation is viewed as a buying opportunity.
And a car racing enthusiast:
From your second scope shot is looks like the motor velocity suddenly breaks down to a lower velocity.
However, in both these cases, the authors are describing charts, and so "breaks down" may be describing a "sharp negative inflection" or a "very steep decline".
But it's harder to make a case against the following examples, starting with an academic mineralogy paper:
This phase [of a silica compound] breaks down to a lower hydrate near 200 degrees
and again in a discussion among video gamers:
Once you have a morph [video game character] out, hold down A, and you'll consume more energy to make the morph bigger. Very handy for when your morph breaks down to a lower level, and you don't have time to draw it again.
and again among, erm, survivalists:
Why, outside of all the compounds and elements in the universe, why is gunpowder immortal? Everything else breaks down to a lower energy state. Mountains crumble, houses fall, paint fades...
Each of these quotes perfectly captures the idea of "breaking down" as "reduction with transformation" to a state with lower power.