February 13, 2020

Nicotine for a Modern Age: The 3 Technologies That Define Vaping

Vaping has only existed for a little over a decade, but it sometimes feels as though it has been around forever. More than 40 million people around the world have given up their cigarettes with the help of e-cigarettes, and that has had a dramatic benefit both on public health and on the lives of the individuals who have used e-cigarettes to help themselves quit smoking.

The modern e-cigarette did not appear, however, as a fully formed product; it is actually the culmination of years of research and development, and the vaping devices that people use today wouldn’t be possible without the invention of a few key technologies.

The next time you add some e-juice to your tank, pause for a moment to think about the technologies that have helped to make the modern vaping experience possible. Even if you’re not a vaper or smoker yourself, you may still appreciate taking a little time to look back on the technologies that have helped to make your life a little less stinky.

These are the technologies that have helped to define the modern vaping experience.

The Cartomizer

More than anything else, the cartomizer might be the most important technology ever to hit the vaping industry. Before the advent of the atomizer, delivering vape juice to the heating coil of an e-cigarette was a real issue. The earliest e-cigarettes used semi-permanent atomizers that screwed into their batteries.

To vape, you’d place a hollow disposable cartridge over your e-cigarette’s atomizer. The cartridge had a sponge inside, and the sponge was saturated with e-liquid. The atomizer, meanwhile, had a steel mesh bridge that pushed on the sponge.

In theory, e-liquid would flow from the sponge to the heating coil via the mesh bridge. In practice, though, people would often throw their cartridges away before they were dry because the e-liquid seldom flowed to the coil reliably.

Around 2009-2010, the cartomizer appeared as a much more elegant solution for e-liquid delivery in smaller e-cigarettes. Named because it combined an atomizer and a cartridge in a single package, the cartomizer was a single-use component with wet gauze wrapped around a heating coil.

Since the gauze directly touched the coil, cartomizers rarely suffered from the “dry hits” that traditional hollow cartridges sometimes produced. Today’s electronic cigarettes with screw-on refill cartridges still use cartomizers, while some other small e-cigarettes – most notably the JUUL – have transitioned to hollow plastic pods instead. Pod technology is a direct descendant of cartomizer technology in that each pod includes its own atomizer coil.

Full Power Regulation

Many of those who vape absolutely love to blow enormous clouds, and that wouldn’t be possible without modern vaping devices that offer full power regulation. While the earliest vaping devices typically operated at under 10 watts, today’s high-end atomizer coils require 80 watts or more – and sometimes well over 100 watts – to reach their full potential for vapor production. If you’re doing to put a 100-watt vaping device into your mouth, you need some serious safety measures in place – and that’s where full power regulation comes in.

A regulated vaping device has the ability to check the resistance of the connected atomizer coil and determine the operational voltage necessary to reach the wattage that the user selects. Even more importantly, though, a regulated device also constantly scans certain parameters to ensure that the user can vape safely.

A modern regulated vaping device can check for short circuits, overheating, low battery voltage, high current, and other situations that could potentially be unsafe. When a regulated vaping device detects an unsafe situation, it’ll automatically display an error message and stop the user from vaping.

Full power regulation isn’t just a staple in vaping devices with variable-wattage functionality; it’s also made it possible to develop new vape pens that are small and powerful but extremely simple to use. Some of today’s vape pens include extremely powerful sub-ohm tanks, but they’re regulated to operate at the ideal voltage for those tanks and require no user controls except for a single fire button.

The Sub-Ohm Tank

The sub-ohm tank is the final key technology that defines modern vaping. The cartomizer was an extremely important piece of technology for owners of small e-cigarettes, but some owners of those early vaping devices just didn’t find them completely satisfying even with their improved e-liquid delivery.

Nicotine salt e-liquid didn’t appear until 2015. Before then, the highest nicotine strength available for most smaller e-cigarettes was just 18 mg/ml. In comparison, today’s pod systems, such as the JUUL e-cigarette, use e-liquids with strengths exceeding 50 mg/ml.

For many vapers, using a low-power vaping device and an e-liquid with a nicotine strength of 18 mg just didn’t provide a fully satisfying vaping experience. Those vapers began to seek out ways of wringing even bigger vapor clouds out of their devices, and the rebuildable atomizer was one of the earliest fruits of that search.

Requiring only wire and cotton, the rebuildable atomizer made it possible for cloud chasers to build atomizer coils to their own specifications and push the boundaries as far as they liked.

As great as rebuildable atomizers were and still are, they aren’t the ideal cloud chasing solution for all vapers because most people don’t want to go through the trouble of building their own coils from scratch every few days.

For those people, the appearance of the first sub-ohm tanks in the early 2010s was a godsend because sub-ohm tanks made it possible to get most of the vapor production of a rebuildable atomizer with a fraction of the work. Rather than forcing the user to build coils from scratch, sub-ohm tanks used pre-built coils that simply screwed in and out.

Today, sub-ohm tanks have evolved to the point where they have made rebuildable atomizers almost irrelevant to all but the most dedicated hobbyist vapers. You no longer have to use a rebuildable atomizer to get the biggest clouds that a vaping device can produce; pre-built coils for modern sub-ohm tanks offer virtually the same level of performance.

About the author 

Anu Balam

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