How Your Vape Actually Works – The Technology Behind E Cigarettes
E cigarettes come in all shapes and sizes from the ‘cigalikes’ of the first generation that were designed to resemble regular cigarettes (and are set to see a comeback in the form of Vype’s eStick line) to more modern designs that make their artificiality as conspicuous as possible, and even creations like the Pebble, which look like no piece of smoking paraphernalia to come before.
Inside, though, they all use the same basic technology, even if some of them have a few extra bells and whistles. If you’ve ever been curious about what’s actually going on in there when you’re puffing away, you’re in luck.
An E cigarette needs four basic components: a mouthpiece, a cartridge or tank, an atomiser, and a battery. Most also include electronics to control the movement of liquid onto the heating element in the atomiser, but some are purely mechanical with no need for microprocessors.
The cartridge will be full of e-liquid, which is usually a mixture of mostly glycerol and propylene glycol (two non-toxic chemicals that look and smell like water but are faintly sweet to the taste) along with water, nicotine and flavourings. When the device is switched on, the atomiser will draw from the battery to power a heating element that will convert the liquid into an aerosolised vapour.
This is where the name ‘vaping’ comes from, as what E cigarettes produce isn’t smoke from something burning as it is with conventional cigarettes. The process is closer to the way you boil water to get steam. This vapour can then be inhaled through the mouthpiece, and from there we’re all basically familiar with the process.
Bells and Whistles
Of course, some E cigarettes have a bit more going on. A common component nowadays is a temperature control device, either to maintain the optimum level of heat for a particular device or liquid (e-liquids with a higher nicotine concentration will vaporise at lower temperatures and so require less heat) or to allow users control over the process themselves, meaning they can adjust their device for the specific liquid they are using. Models like this often also have a digital display to show the current temperature.
Over time, as technology has improved to allow E cigarettes to deliver nicotine more efficiently, low-nicotine e-liquids have become popular, meaning that E-cigarettes have had to become more powerful, so many modern examples use and eight volt lithium battery.
Many e-cigarettes also incorporate a small LED to show when they are switched on, though this is hardly high-tech wizardry.
Some modern examples incorporate other technology for less practical reasons—examples have appeared featuring microphones, speakers, and jacks to allow them to play music from a smartphone, for example. It seems like we really are living in a new age of technology.